Colombia U-turns on global poker liquidity

18 April 2018

The Colombian regulator Coljuegos has had a change of heart on poker liquidity sharing, deciding against it despite announcing plans to allow it late last year.

In a draft decree published in November, Coljeugos said pooling liquidity would allow Colombia to become “even more competitive” and suggested regulated markets such as France, Italy, Portugal and Spain, which last year cleared the way for operators active across more than one of the ringfenced markets to merge their respective player pools, would be suitable partners.

However, Evert Montero Cardenas, president of Colombian gaming trade body Fecoljuegos, told iGaming Business in an interview last week that the project had been abandoned.

“That proposed regulation was put forward by Coljuegos, however, it was stopped because there were many issues regarding the potential risks on the control of cash and the players abroad,” said Montero.

“The proposal regarding international liquidity did not offer any benefits to the national operators, it rather favoured the big international companies, as one of the requirements was that Colombian players could play on websites that had been authorised in the country and abroad, and only big companies have the capacity to comply with this requirement as many of them already hold licences to operate in Colombia and other countries.”

The news is likely to have come as a blow to PokerStars, which pulled out of the market when it regulated but indicated an intention to return at a later date as a licensed operator.

PokerStars was named on a blacklist put together by Coljuegos early last year and withdrew from the market last summer after the regulator began enforcing the list.

Last July the poker giant issued a statement to Colombian players to inform them of its departure, but stated that it “has been, and will continue to be, in positive and proactive discussions” with officials there and that it hoped to resume real-money activity there “in the future”.

It is believed one of the stumbling blocks to PokerStars’ re-entry was the regulator’s initial reluctance to consider liquidity sharing — given Colombia’s small size a ringfenced market is unlikely to be profitable and indeed although Coljuegos has now handed out nine online licences, none of them are for poker operators.

The news in November suggested the regulator was aware of the limitations of a closed liquidity pool but given this latest development, the potential for regulated poker in Colombia remains uncertain.

- iGaming Business contacted Coljuegos and PokerStars for comment on this story. Neither had responded at the time of writing.

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