The first is that foreign companies now have just a few weeks to apply for a poker license to continue offering poker to UK players. This shift in policy has been brought about by a law change in the UK which is now asking foreign-based poker and gambling companies who operate a service to UK customers pay tax of 15 per cent on all profits generated from UK-based players.
But first, let’s take a look at one of the most established and reputed poker sites available in the UK, PokerStars, which has announced that its latest software incarnation, Version 7, is set for Beta testing and release.
PokerStars remains the world’s biggest poker site and customers of the company are set for an exciting few weeks, but only if you play on the site via a desktop PC. While mobile users may have to make do with their current version of the mobile software for a little while yet, players who access PokerStars from their PC can take advantage of the brand new PokerStars Poker Client software - somewhat unexcitedly entitled Version 7.
Steven Markov, the Senior Manager of PokerStars’ Product Management team revealed that the new client was “in a phase when everybody plays [by default] on PokerStars 6, but they can opt-in to PokerStars 7.”
Markov further revealed that these changes had been implemented on the Spanish version of the PokerStars site as well as the .com and .eu versions of the site. This is the Beta phase of the launch, where players by default load up the existing version of the site and can opt to try out Version 7.
However, within a few weeks, it is expected that Version 7 will become the default installation on the site, with players then able to select Version 6 if they prefer to do so. This version of the site may be available for a while, but eventually Version 6 will be phased out and Version 7 will become the default client for all users with no other alternatives. Markov revealed that the company hopes to have completed this whole process across its wide range of sites by sometime in October.
The new client version sees many features that PokerStars customers have asked to be included in the past, including the option to favourite certain tables to allow quick access to them, the ability to hide the chatbox completely and a new feature called the “Chip Graph” which tracks a players relative position in a tournament.
The front end of the site has also undergone a major overhaul and it is expected that for as many PokerStars players who love the changes, there will be a number who prefer the older site. The PokerStars client Version 7 is available to try now by loading up PokerStars from your desktop and visiting any of the three websites mentioned above, where you can opt to try the new version, or play using the older Version 6.
If you have yet to try the world's most famous online poker room, create a new account and you can get a $20 free PokerStars welcome bonus simply for joining.
On May 14th 2013, the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Bill received Royal Assent, thus becoming law in the UK. Now known as the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act, this new piece of legislation means that any operator wishing to allow British-based consumers to play on their site, must obtain an operating license from the Gambling Commission.
This new legislation will come into force on 1st October 2014, meaning that any foreign-based provider of poker, or indeed any other form of gambling related activity on the internet, needs to have a licence assigned to them by the Gambling Commission.
Earlier this month, the commission sent out a reminder to all foreign-based companies that this new legislation would be enforced from 1st October and that to ensure that companies didn’t experience an interruption in services, they needed to apply for a licence (and pay a fee) before the 16th September 2014.
This change in law was brought about due to the fact that the current government in the UK quickly realised that many foreign-based companies (not solely owners of gambling websites) were earning significant profits from their interactions with UK-based customers but contributing nothing to the UK economy in terms of tax. The 2013 Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Bill was therefore aimed at overseas companies who operated within the UK gambling industry but did not pay any tax.
The new legislation will mean that any company operating within the UK will be licensed and as part of the agreement, will pay a flat rate 15% tax on profits generated from UK-based customers. While foreign-based companies are not particularly pleased with the idea of paying tax, British-based gambling companies feel it is a fairer system, as it means that other companies are now subject to similar taxation laws as they are.
It is not yet known if any of the major foreign-based companies operating within the UK have decided not to take up the offer, however if any do not, then as of October 2014, they may find their access to the UK market restricted. Given the level of income generated from UK-based poker players and punters, it seems likely that most, if not all, the top gambling operators will likely sign up to the new regulatory system in time for the 16th September deadline.