Why Full Tilt’s and PokerStars’ New Licences are Important

UK Gambling Commission logo

You may have noticed that over the last couple of days, a lot of news sites were talking about Amaya securing new UK licences for its biggest sites – Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars. While this has been long time coming (and is in many ways not even news), the move is a significant one not only for the operator, but for the industry itself. But why has everyone been talking about this and why on earth should you care?

Why the licences are necessary

If you don’t know this by now, where the hell have you been for the last six months?! As part of new legislation introduced last year, any remote gambling operator who wants to accept UK players must hold a licence provided by the UK Gambling Commission, making the operator subject to the UKGC rules and also liable to pay the controversial Place of Consumption Tax (a tax of 15% which all of the operator’s UK profits are subject to).

Why Amaya has been treading water

Full Tilt Poker logoSince the announcement last year that remote gaming operators would need a UK licence in order to retain UK customers, Amaya has effectively been living on borrowed time. Since the new law came into force, it’s been operating on a temporary continuation licence, which meant that it would either have to get a full licence eventually, or stop trading in the UK (which is why I say this is hardly news).

Most people suspect, however, that the company’s reluctance to get a hold of a licence ties into the belief (or perhaps blind hope) that one of the many legal challenges against the new rules would have some success and the legislation would be overturned. Amaya seems to have been holding out until the very last moment to get the licences to avoid the huge tax bill which will come with it (and when you consider how much the smaller site PartyPoker is expecting to pay in tax this year thanks to the POC, you begin to understand Amaya’s motivation.

What the acquisition of the licences mean

Firstly, and most notably, there is an air of acceptance in the move. While I’m not suggesting that the fight against the POC tax and the new UK regulation is over, it seems that there has been a certain amount of resignation to the fact that operators are going to have to play ball to operate in the UK. Elsewhere in online gambling this week, operator MetroPlay had its UK licence suspended by the UKGC due to noncompliance to regulations – a demonstration, if one were needed, that UKGC is really playing hardball.

The significance of the whole thing does not stop at Amaya, though. Operating two of the very biggest online poker sites means that you are under the microscope and all of your actions are watched by the world. Where Amaya goes, the rest of the industry is sure to follow, so don’t be at all surprised if we see other sites following suit and signing up for a full licence rather than sitting it out further.

But there is a positive side

PokerStars logo on black backgroundIt’s not doom and gloom though. Operators have been careful to point out to players how higher running costs will result in smaller bonuses and guarantees and higher rakes. What goes unsaid a lot of the time is how bringing sites into the UKGC fold means a more zealous regulatory environment.

The licence is not only a ball and chain for operators, but also a badge of honour. They are only awarded to sites and operators who demonstrate that they abide by the UKGC rules and conform to their requirements. This means that players can now be confident that these sites have suitable responsible gambling frameworks in place, operate responsibly as companies, and (arguably most importantly) have proper safeguards for your money should the operator itself become insolvent.

Full Tilt and PokerStars elsewhere on Droid Poker

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