Ringfencing, The Demise of Online Poker

When a country ringfences their residents it forces the poker rooms to set aside poker sites dedicated to players only in that country.  Presumably the government’s goal is to prevent money from leaving their borders.  Many politicians are on record as saying that online gambling helps fund international terrorism.  As ridiculous as that is maybe these type of clauses help swing those type of politicians into voting for the regulations.

As we have learned from online poker regulation in Italy and France the EU is allowing member countries to ringfence their players from the rest of the EU as well as the rest of the world.  Sites like Pokerstars.fr and Pokerstars.it popped up to create entirely new platforms for players in those countries to play on.  Belgium recently tried to pass the same type of legislation but it failed.  Estonia passed changes that force online poker rooms to create separate skins for players while still allowing them to play the .com players from all over the world.  In the U.S. HR 2267 would likely ringfence players as well and if states pass regulated online poker before the U.S. does their state’s players will be ringfenced as well.  So what is next?

First expect this trend to continue.  Countries like the idea of having total control over their gambling revenue.  The status quo doesn’t allow that.  Also politicians tend to not like the idea of their country’s money flowing offshore.  They also would prefer to keep jobs within their country’s borders.

As an online poker player there is nothing positive about the probability of fragmenting the player base.  Part of the draw of sites like Poker Stars and Full Tilt is their massive player base.  The more these sites are forced to break apart the worse the game selection gets.  The fewer games there are, the less attractive the poker room will become to potential players.  The fragmented, ringfenced platforms, will suffer the same results.  As players get used to playing on a smaller poker room the less desirable online poker becomes.

Affiliates will have to get creative.  Creating partnerships with translators that can create country specific sites will be a must.  Large affiliates will need to create language specific support as each country’s platform will have its own policies and support needs.

I’m not saying regulation is the end of online poker.  Players, affiliates and site operators just need to be involved in the regulation process.  As long as regulation does not fragment the online poker world it can be a good thing as it will create jobs and taxes for host countries.  If done the wrong way though it will destroy online poker as we know it.

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