Amaya Gaming PokerStars, Full Tilt Exit International Grey Markets

Updated: September 30th, 2014 by Dev Ops

amaya-gaming-logoThe Amaya Gaming-owned PokerStars and Full Tilt online poker sites will be withdrawn from a handful of smaller so-called “grey market” jurisdictions, effective immediately.  The move by Amaya appears to coincide with the original implementation date (October 1st) for the United Kingdom’s new Gambling Act, athough the actual live date for that act has been pushed back to November 1st. A PokerStars representative provided the following quote to BPR: “Our management team and advisors regularly review our operations market-by-market to assess commercial opportunities and business risks for our brands. Following a recent review we have decided to stop offering real money games to players who are physically located in, or have a registered address in, a limited number of countries.” “We appreciate that many of our customers are passionate about using our services, and we regret the inconvenience that this will cause affected players,” the statement continued. “Affected players can log into the relevant software and cash out their remaining balance using the ordinary withdrawal methods available to them, and they are welcome to do this at their convenience.” Several sites have independently compiled a list of countries which will be excluded from participation on the Stars and FTP sites.  The following countries have had players post that they have been blocked from further real-money play:

  • Afghanistan
  • Bahrain
  • Bangladesh
  • Cuba
  • Egypt
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Libya
  • Jordan
  • Kenya
  • Kuwait
  • Malaysia
  • Mozambique
  • Myanmar
  • Nigeria
  • North Korea
  • Northern Cyprus
  • Occupied Palestinian Territory (Gaza Strip)
  • Pakistan
  • Qatar
  • Rwanda
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Senegal
  • Sudan
  • Syria
  • Tanzania
  • Turkey
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Vatican City (Holy See)
  • Yemen
  • Zimbabwe

The vast majority of these countries offer very small numbers of players to PokerStars’ and Full Tilt’s global player pool, though a few of the countries, such as Turkey and Malaysia, have decent online poker player populations. None of the countries on an individual basis, however, likely approaches a 3% threshold inherent in the new UK Gambling Act’s regulations, however.  That threshold applies to the total market share attributable to players from any so-called grey-market county, at which point UK-licensed firms must provide legal rationales for servicing those grey-market countries. Alternate theories have Amaya Gaming preparing itself for a soon-to-be-announced reentry into the United States, in the struggling New Jersey online market.  Amaya’s purchase of PokerStars resulted in the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement reactivating a PokerStars application as a service provider, in this case as a software partner for the Mohegan-operated Resorts Casino Hotel.  Resorts Casino, no longer a part of the Resorts International family, has already had its own application approved and awaits PokerStars’ expected New Jersey approval. Yet another angle has Amaya, based in Canada, preparing for a possible pullout from several Canadian provinces as well.  Though unregulated in much of Canada, online poker and online gambling in general has been treated by the country’s authorities in a manner similar to the country’s neighbor, the US.  Increasing regulatory requirements — particularly of home-country corporations — could mean the addition of all or parts of Canada to the the Stars/Full Tilt “blocked countries” list. As of September 30, and for some time after reports of the pullout had gone public, the PokerStars TOS (Terms of Service) showed the following countries listed within the document’s description of “Prohibited” and “Restricted” jurisdictions.  That section (below) included none of the countries newly listed as blocked, perhaps indicating that the decision to withdraw from these markets was rushed and that not all documentation has had a chance to catch up. It all adds up to a mess, with not even the documentation on the sites themselves able to quite keep up.  Note the disparity in this now out-of-date entry in the Stars TOS, which was still live at last check:

5.11 Persons located in or residents of the United States and the United States Territories (the “Prohibited Jurisdictions”) are not permitted to make deposits into their accounts or engage in real-money play. They may cash out their existing account balances. For the avoidance of doubt, the foregoing restrictions on engaging in real-money play from Prohibited Jurisdictions applies equally to residents and citizens of other nations while located in a Prohibited Jurisdiction. Players located in or residents of France and applicable territories, Italy, Estonia, Belgium, Denmark, and Spain (the “Restricted Jurisdictions”) are required to play according to the regulations in each Restricted Jurisdiction, using the appropriately designated, licensed game clients.

Since the prohibited territories originally included only the United States, a significant update is likely to be made to Stars (and Full Tilt’) TOS — perhaps by the time you read them, or this.

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