The issues of underage gambling and differences in national laws surrounding online gambling across member states in the European Union have taken centre stage this week with the news that the EU Commission has issued a recommendation on the subject for member states.
We’ll take a look at what those recommendations are in more detail in the second part of this weeks news review, but first, if you are looking to enjoy a game at www.fulltiltpoker.com or www.fulltiltpoker.eu any time soon, then you may need to point your browser elsewhere. We will explain why below.
A few weeks ago we brought you the news that Amaya had taken over both PokerStars and Full Tilt as part of a deal which saw their parent company, the Rational Group, being purchased by Amaya Gaming Inc.
At the time, we stated that Amaya CEO David Baazov had already identified that to increase profitability for both brand names, a further diversification away from poker and into other areas of gambling, namely sports betting, casino gaming, and social gaming, was part of the company's long term strategy.
And now the first part of that process has taken place as the two websites www.filltiltpoker.com and www.filtiltpoker.eu, two of the most famous and long-established poker sites in the world, are no longer in existence. Now to play on either of these sites, users have to visit one of two new domain names, www.fulltilt.com and www.fulltilt.eu.
The change may only be relatively small, but omitting the word “poker” from each title is the first stage of the process in diversifying the type and number of gambling activities each site can host. When you log into the new domain names, the name Full Tilt Poker is still evident, however industry experts reckon that within a few weeks, the site will also get a new name with Full Tilt Gaming being the firm favourite.
As yet, Full Tilt’s Twitter feed retains the Poker suffix, though it is expected that the company will revamp their social media portfolio in coming weeks and months. This is all in advance of the expected diversification of the site. In truth, that process has already begun with several new casino games added to the site already.
Experts believe that a Full Tilt Casino is only a matter of time and that by next year, Full Tilt will also be offering sports betting via each website. Furthermore, Amaya’s plans for expansion with Full Tilt do not stop there. The company has applied for gaming licenses in the Spanish and Italian markets.
There is also a dedicated website available for players from Sweden, though at the time of writing it is not yet operational. As yet there is no information about what Amaya intend to do with the PokerStars label with all the companies efforts seemingly focused on expanding the Full Tilt range of gaming options across the globe at present.
If you want to try out a site from the Full Tilt family, look no further than PokerStars. Right now anyone who creates a new account at the world's largest and most famous poker site will qualify for a PokerStars $20 free bankroll offer.
One of the biggest issues facing European gambling companies, including poker sites, is to prevent underage users accessing and using the sites illegally and to protect online gamers from disreputable or illegal sites.
Speaking of their decision to issue a recommendation, the EU Commission revealed, “Consumer protection is an area of shared competences between the EU and the Member States." EU action is justified if EU citizens are inadequately protected without it.”
The problem the EU faces is that all member states of the EU have taken a national approach to developing their own strategies, laws, and guidance when it comes to online gambling. These rules have been developed in isolation from other states in the EU and there has been no consistency in the way these rules have been established.
As such, this means that the rules pertaining to gambling in Sweden, for example, are very different to the rules in Spain. While this may not impinge on punters who bet at real world casinos, or play in real world poker rooms, in the online realm where there is far greater access across national boundaries, this is a potential problem.
As the European Commission stated, “There is no sector-specific EU legislation regulating gambling services.”
Furthermore, the differences between what each country offers leads to problems. The Commission stated that there are “thousands of unregulated gambling websites” across the EU which pose significant risk for users including “fraud and money laundering."
After reviewing the state of legislation across EU member states the Commission stated that “there is a need for better consumer protection. Commercial practices, harm minimisation, prevention of problem gambling and monitoring of gambling behaviour, should be regulated more strictly.”
The Commission recommends that member states should modify their legislation to protect minors from gambling and to reduce the likelihood of users turning to unregulated gambling sites within the EU. However, the main problem with this is that the recommendation is not obligatory.
Member states are advised to make the necessary changes, but are not obliged to do so. A factor which the Commission readily accepts stating, “Although an EU Directive would be best placed to achieve the objectives, it is not feasible at this stage to propose a legislative solution.”
The Commission will review the effects of the recommendation after 24 months.