Online poker players in Belgium heard good news on Friday as Bwin.com announced a partnership with Belcasinos, giving Bwin.com-owned Party Poker access once again to the Belgian market. The Belgian gambling authority had placed Party Poker on its blacklist in May due to its failure to partner with brick-and-mortar operators in Belgium, and fined the company $100,000 for continuing to offer access to Belgians without a license. Belgian law mandates online poker companies form partnerships with Belgian casinos in order to win a license for online poker, casino and sports betting.
Party Poker now joins three other groups offering online poker to Belgians. Pokerstars/Circus Group controls one license. Golden Palace/Casino De Spa owns another, with Partouche/Casino de Dinant owning the third.
This agreement should put an end to the long-running battle between Bwin and Belgian gambling commission. ISPs in Belgium had blocked access to Party Poker, briefly detained BWin’s CEO Norbert Teufelberger in Brussells in November, with Belgian players facing stiff fines if they continued to play online with Party Poker. Party Poker in turn filed a lawsuit against the gaming commission, claiming the license requirements were against EU law.
Teufelberger and his bwin.party co-chief executive Jim Ryan, said in a press release, “We are excited to have reached an agreement with Partouche to offer our market-leading products under license to consumers in Belgium. Following recent developments in Belgium and after further dialogue with the local regulator, we have put our differences of opinion behind us and are now focused on the immediate commercial opportunity.
“Together with our new partner we are now in the process of securing the necessary approvals to meet the requirements set by the BGC and do not expect any interruption to our service for customers in Belgium.”
Jacques Frojman, CEO of Belcasinos and Partouche Belgium, said:
“bwin.party is a market leader in online gaming with strong brands in sports betting, poker and casino. We are thrilled to be working with such a quality partner in Belgium.”
The industry as a whole is so keen to get back into The United States market. The goal itself seems to have become such a focus that some people within the industry seem to have lost sight of the reality of the situation.
A repeal of the UIGEA and the introduction of a regulatory environment for the industry in the US will certainly be a good thing on the whole but may not turn out to be the bonanza that some people are hoping for.
At the end of this process, the cost of doing business in the US could turn out to be very expensive. Quite a bit of the support for a version of Barney Frank’s bill is not based on a desire to offer US citizens a choice.
Much of it is based on the fact that online casinos can generate a lot of money for state and federal authorities and this combined with the fact that the industry will accept nearly anything to get back into the market has created a situation where greed on the part of the politicians will play a part.
The financial mood may have changed but the disdain that many politicians still hold towards online casinos is still there just beneath the surface.
All in all the current direction of things is a healthy one but perspective on the situation is also needed.
Despite all of the optimism that currently surrounds the full implementation of UIGEA, the pressure is still very much on for the small number of online casinos that are still prepared to accept US players.
This situation was brought very much into sharp focus again with the decision by Golden Casino to stop accepting US players.
This decision was essentially brought about by massive pressure that was placed on the casino to do so.
It clearly shows that while there is plenty of hope about the possible passing of a version of Barney Frank’s bill and the introduction of a regulatory environment, there still exists a very problematic situation for the few online casinos still left out there that are trying to deal with American customers.
A workable resolution to the situation is still what everybody is hoping to arrive at during some part of 2010.
The story of UIGEA is such a large one for the online casino industry that it is quite easy to forget that it is not the only regulatory battle in town.
There is no doubt that the coming year will be a very interesting one for the online casino industry and that regulatory conditions will be a major component in this. While the ongoing saga of UIGEA and the possibility of its repeal will certainly be the largest story on t he regulatory front and rightly so, it’s also important to remember that it won’t be the only one.
Several European countries will be talking another look at their online gambling legislation in the coming year and we can hope for a greater harmonization across member states with EU directives and laws in the area with particular regard to competition.
Australia is another large country where the current ban is receiving a lot of attention and momentum seems to be growing towards the possibility of the introduction of a regulatory environment as well.
There are also many other countries where regulation is likely to get an overhaul in the coming year as well.
While the trials and tribulations of UIGEA will certainly be the main story in the the regulation area in the coming year it is important to remember that it’s not the only game in town.
The business of predicting future events is both dangerous and seductive. Dangerous in the regard that it is virtually impossible not to look a bit silly when one’s predictions are looked at with the benefit of hindsight, and seductive in the regard that it is a basic part of human nature to have a tilt at guessing what is going to happen.
So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at something that has been developing for quite a while now and looks set to continue in the year ahead.
Going back a number of years the online casino industry was like any other Internet based business in that it was virtually completely international. Different languages were catered for but the customers came from everywhere and the casinos were based basically anywhere.
Then the specter of legislation and heavy regulation meant that casinos could only be based in certain jurisdictions. At this stage the customers still came from everywhere.
The next step for authorities was to try to curtail consumer activity as well.
All of the problems that have arisen out of this have caused an localized element to creep into the industry where casinos are set up in certain jurisdictions to target customers in certain jurisdictions.
The general movement by governments to introduce regulatory environments rather than outright bans looks set to increase both the level and speed of localization of the online casino industry in the coming year.
One of the main topics that keeps the minds of people in the online casino industry well exercised is online gambling ban in the United States.
Currently, we have a delay in the introduction of the full force of the ban and it might appear to some outside the industry that there is nothing else happening except the activity surrounding this.
For people directly concerned with the U.S. market this is mostly true but for the industry in a broader sense there is no shortage of other regulatory issues elsewhere to keep an eye on as well.
Several different European countries are having and creating headaches of their own in the area of online gambling regulation.
There are some that are trying to simply ignore the issue while others have attempted to introduce legislation that they feel would suit their domestic market only to find that what they attempting to do contravenes European Union regulations on competition.
The United States is the biggest single market for online gambling in the world but it also very important to remember that there are regulatory fires to be put out elsewhere as well.