PokerStars has received a regulatory green light to launch a .pt poker and casino website, Portugal’s gaming regulator – Serviços de Regulação e Inspeção de Jogos (SRIJ) – announced on Monday. Under its license, PokerStars will provide local players with tournament poker options, Hold’em and Omaha cash games, blackjack, and French roulette.
It is still unclear when exactly the online poker room will go live in Portugal. Here it is important to note that the local market is ring-fenced, which means that players will only have access to PokerStars’ .pt pool. Earlier this year, France amended its gambling regulations, allowing the country’s gambling regulator – ARJEL – to negotiate shared poker liquidity with other ring-fenced jurisdictions. There have been ongoing discussions between France, Spain, and Italy, and it is believed that Portugal may join the efforts.
The launch of online poker operations in Portugal was delayed as the local gambling regulator had to decide whether the country’s poker market would remain ring-fenced or there would be an option for shared liquidity agreements to be reached with other jurisdictions. Talks on the matter were initiated by Associação Nacional de Apostadores Online (ANAon), or Portugal’s association of online poker players. They argued that shared liquidity was an opportunity that should not be neglected. Eventually, it was decided that the local online poker market would be ring-fenced, up until adequate shared liquidity terms are devised by interested regulators, lawmakers, and operators.
PokerStars has become the first online poker operator to obtain a gaming license by SRIJ. The popular poker brand had previously operated in the local market but left it in July 2015 after Portuguese lawmakers introduced a new regulatory framework, turning Portugal into Europe’s next regulated jurisdiction. Although the country’s market was regulated last year, the local gambling regulator stated granting gaming and sports betting licenses this spring. REEL Europe Limited, or the company behind PokerStars’ Portuguese operations, became the fourth licensee to have been admitted to Portugal.
French gambling operator Betclic was the first to be granted a license by the local regulator. It first received a sports betting license and later on obtained one for the provision of casino-style games. Bet, operated by Bet Entertainment Technologies Limited, and local gambling operator Estoril Sol Digital were, too, allowed to operate casino games and sports betting options.