Italy remains committed to the European shared liquidity agreement that allows licensed online poker operators in Italy, France, Spain and Portugal to share player pools between countries, stated Italy’s Undersecretary of the Ministry of Economy Pier Paolo Baretta last week.
It is the first time in months an official has spoken about Italy’s position on the European shared liquidity project. Some stakeholders in the industry have voiced concern that Italy’s participation has been effectively politicized and thus frozen this side of general elections in March.
“The Government has begun a verification procedure, which is still underway. In regards to shared liquidity, there is an international agreement that is going to be respected,” stated Baretta, responding to a question posed by GiocoNews at a book launch this week.
“When we have the results of this verification (presumably of a technical nature) we will communicate them and then make a decision on it,” he added.
The international agreement Baretta refers to is the July 2017 accord between Spain, France, Italy and Portugal which built the foundations of new rules that allow licensed operators in these countries to combine their player pools.
The first such cross-border network went live last week, when PokerStars successfully united the player pools of their Spanish and French online poker rooms.
While Baretta’s comment ends with non-committal language, the words will still be welcome to the industry, having broken a long period of radio silence.
Cracks started to form in October 2017 following concerns raised by an IGT executive at an anti-money laundering conference. The words were parroted by Baretta’s fellow Democratic party politician Franco Mirabelli, who sits on parliamentary commissions for organized crime and finance.
“Among other things, players will be exposed to greater risks in an unmanaged system, and this is totally inappropriate,” Marabelli stated at the time, adding that he would “ask for immediate intervention from [Minister of Economy and Finances] Minister Padoan to prevent the continuation of this project.”
Following these statements, there have been no formal updates from the Italian regulator, nor the politicians who had apparently inserted themselves into what had been a nonpartisan process.
The communication blackout from Italy led fellow regulators to formally inquire into its status. Last week, PokerStars publicly urged the regulator to move forward.
“We would encourage Italy to resume their drive toward shared liquidity which after a good start has recently slowed considerably,” said stated Guy Templer, Chief Operating Officer of Stars Interactive Group, the gaming division of The Stars Group, on announcing the launch of the French-Spanish player pool.
“We’re looking forward to extending [the French-Spanish player pool] to Italian and Portuguese players, and offer our full support to the relevant authorities in those countries to do so,” he stated.
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