Online poker regulation around the world through an Italian lens

October 21, 2014

‘In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity’

The wise statement used as the title is not a personal intuition. It is one of the pearls of wisdom that Albert Einstein’s genius left us. I think it perfectly reflects the present situation of poker in Italy in which – no point in denying the facts – isn’t as big as it used to be.

I am not the kind of person who likes worrying and, once and for all, I wish to debunk what many people–sometimes lacking all the information they need–continuously repeat as a mantra: Italian poker is going through a time of crisis?

In my opinion, the answer is: No, it is simply evolving.

Four or five years ago, we lived an incredible boom. But, poker is not a simple fad. It’s been fascinating people for some time. It’s not disappearing like a soap bubble in the wind.

Those who really love Texas Hold’em and those having become fond of it in that period of huge media exposure are still here. They continue to play. Numbers registered by the Italian Poker Tour or recently by other tournaments like the Sunday Million undeniably prove it. After all, math is not an opinion.

The poker world is evolving, not just in Italy, but around the world. A look at the situation of the online poker could clear the point. In the USA for example, online poker is back in Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey. Analysts have estimated that many other states will follow the example in next years. Moreover, some of the smaller states could soon join forces, putting together the respective customer pools.

The idea could get a foothold also in Europe through the international shared liquidity. The issue is particularly delicate and really hot (debates have been going on for years), but if it would be dealt with in the right way, it could project us to a new frontier of online poker which would benefit everyone.

At present, as we all know, in many European countries, including Italy, poker rooms need to have a national license allowing them to operate within but not beyond the country borders. Enlarging the player pool–granting a player the opportunity to play against Italian, Spanish, French or English opponents–would be great, significant, and convenient.

Great because each culture, each school of thought and game would have something unique to share. Significant because matching against players of other countries would increase the experience level and help everyone learn and improve their skills. Convenient because a wider player pool would bring along the opportunity of organizing bigger tournaments with higher prize pools, thus creating a ripple effect that would benefit the whole industry.

Unfortunately, the list misses an important adjective: complex.

It’s complex because bringing together countries with different laws, rules and regulations (and not only on online poker) is not an easy task.

Still, I believe it is possible, and I trust that the national regulating bodies could work together to find a solution that would lead European online poker to another boom.

As Einstein always used to say, “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change if necessary.”


Luca Pagano is a member of Team PokerStars Pro


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