Short Stacks and Small Stakes Only, Por Favor Short Stacks and Small Stakes Only, Por Favor

This week saw further publication of Spanish drafts that define the regulatory framework for online gambling in Spain. As expected, poker is specifically permitted, alongside bingo, blackjack, roulette, sports betting and bets on horse racing. But heavy restrictions defined in the drafts will not come as welcome news to Spanish poker players.

The latest 17-page “Basic Regulation of Poker,” available on the Spanish Treasury website (PDF), sets out the terms for prospective operators hoping to obtain an online poker license to operate in Spain. But squirreled away in the appendices are restrictions that, unchanged, would define a very unfavorable poker climate for recreational and professional players alike.

Players will be restricted to a daily deposit limit of €600, a weekly limit of €1500 and a monthly limit of €2000. With maximums set this low, it is unlikely games above small stakes would be spread.

But perhaps even worse for no limit players is that all games must have a table cap of 30 big blinds – regardless of stakes. Although cap poker – where a limit is set on how much one player may bet on each hand – is a popular variant of NL and Omaha, “full stacked” is still by far the game of choice for the majority of players. It is common to see four times as many full stacked (40-100BB) and deep stacked (100-250BB) games running on PokerStars compared to the 20BB cap tables.

The constraints do not end there. Bizarrely, the draft also defines that no player will be permitted to lose any more than 75% of their available account balance in any given day – a seemingly unenforceable stipulation given the multi-tabling nature of online poker.

Any players thinking that such restrictions on stack size would lead to some good mixed limit games will also be disappointed. Only Hold’em, Omaha and Stud (five card and seven card) are permitted under the draft.

“We are monitoring all of the recent developments in Spain closely”

The news comes after pokerfuse reported last week how the latest plans for regulation would segregate the player pool, but the games will be open to players internationally.

Although too early for any certainties, many poker rooms and networks that spoke with pokerfuse earlier this week were paying close attention to regulatory efforts in Spain with hopes of obtaining a license.

“We are monitoring all of the recent developments in Spain closely,” said one PokerStars representative. “PokerStars welcomes regulatory efforts for online poker [...] it is our policy as a company to always act within local laws and regulations. We work actively with local regulators and aim to be the first to apply for a license in any market where such a system is introduced. That was precisely the case in Italy, France, Estonia and Belgium.”

Although “not confirmed yet,” a representative for the OnGame Network commented, “two markets are likely to go live January 1 2012 – Spain and Denmark,” and highlighted how OnGame was among the first to enter the Italian regulated market in 2008 and the same in France in 2010.

Representatives for the iPoker Network would not comment as to their likelihood to enter the market, but with operations in France and Italy they will certainly be paying close attention.

It is not clear yet how these recent drafts will change such plans.