The French government started the year by binding the local Internet Service Providers to prevent French online poker players from accessing gambling and poker sites which are not licensed by the Autorité de Régulation Des Jeux en Ligne (ARJEL). ARJEL, the institution which started governing online gaming in France just two years ago, has issued online gaming license to seven companies which are now the only legal internet gambling and poker providers in France.
The list of online poker and gambling sites and networks that gained rights to provide their services to French players includes some of the biggest names in the industry: PokerStars, PartyPoker, the iPoker network, 888, Everest, and two French-only sites – Partouche and Winamax.
The new law forbids the French Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to allow their users to access online gaming sites that do not have the license issued by ARJEL. Although the measures taken by the French government against online gambling providers were criticized as violating European Union law, the legislation was passed and put into action on January 1st, 2012.
However, France is not the only European state to enforce online gambling prohibitions at the beginning of 2012. January 1st also marked new online gaming regulations being introduced in Belgium. The Belgian Gaming Commission approved even fewer gaming sites than France with only three sites being granted licenses to provide their services to the Belgian population. From now on Belgian poker players will only be able to play online poker on PokerStars.be, Partouche.be and Casino777.be.
In order to receive the Belgian online gaming license, PokerStars engaged in a partnership with the local online casino operator Circus Group. Finding a native partner was crucial for PokerStars in order to be among the few that gained rights to operate in Belgium.
“PokerStars.com and the Circus Groupe are logical partners,” said Sander Siezen, marketing manager for PokerStars BeNeLux. “CasinoDeNamur.be has the largest live poker events offering in Belgium. PokerStars.com is the world’s largest poker site and the largest in Belgium, as well. In addition, PokerStars.com organizes the largest live poker series, the EPT. This is also in line with our global strategy to obtain online poker licensing wherever it is available.”
While France and Belgium are implementing the new regulations, a number of other European countries are preparing to do the same in the near future. The Spanish government also had plans to start the new year with online gambling regulations taking effect, however, due to a large number of applications the deadline has been delayed six months giving regulators more time to carefully review each and every one of the 61 applications.
Germany is also among those wanting to gain control over online gambling operations taking place within state borders, however, their drafts include ISP restrictions which were rejected by the European Union.