888.ES, the recently-launched regulated Spanish site for Gibraltar-based 888 Holdings, is apparently shutting the accounts of non-Spanish players.
According to player reports, those who registered without a Spanish address and citizen number have been informed that their account has been shut and their account balances will be returned to them via their original deposit method. The email did not specify the reason for the account closure, although it seems localized to those who registered outside of Spain.
One player has reported to pokerfuse that he has already received his account balance back to his Moneybookers account. However, his VIP points, worth approximately €150, were not cashed in, and he can no longer access his account.
Regulated Spanish poker rooms went live on June 5. Although the player pool must be segregated from international players, under the rules of the regulation non-Spanish players are permitted to sign up. Whether this is actually allowed is down to the discretion of the poker room.
When rooms were first switched on, PokerStars, the market leader in Spain by far, chose not to permit anyone to sign up without a primary address in Spain and a national ID number (DNI or NIE). However, 888 and PartyPoker, the second and third largest Spanish rooms respectively, had no such restrictions, permitting anyone to join.
888 seems to be having a change of heart. Last week, it added in a required DNI/NIE field to its sign up form, and only “Spain” is available in the country address dropdown menu. This latest move today suggests it is also banning existing accounts.
The reasons for such changes seems to be down to a question of poker ecology. Although increasing liquidity on Spanish poker rooms is important, there is also the question of maintaining “healthy” player pools. Players outside of Spain who go out of their way to register on a dot.ES site will be predominantly serious or professional players, rather than net-depositing players.
The situation in France is much the same where the ARJEL regulations permit anyone with an EU bank account to join. However, no poker rooms are thought to have implemented their own additional geographical restrictions as they have in Spain.
A representative from 888 was not available to comment on the apparent change in policy at the time of publication.