Last week leading online poker site PokerStars quietly announced it would be pulling out of the Colombian market ahead of the South American country’s crackdown on online gambling.
An email was sent to registered players on Friday saying that as of Monday 17th July, Colombian would no longer be permitted to play for real money at the poker site, although they could still play games for free in demo mode.
PokerStars withdrawal from the market comes after the first round of black-listed gambling sites was blocked by Colombia’s internet service providers.
Earlier this year, Colombia’s gambling regulator Coljuegos requested the Ministry of Information Technologies and Communications block access to 325 online gambling domains. Included on the blacklist was PokerStars and other big names in the online gambling industry like William Hill, 888Poker, Unibet and Bet365. Last week, Play2Win online casino became the first site to be blocked.
Colombia is the first South American country to regulate online gambling, issuing its first online gambling license in June to Colombian operated sports betting site Wplay.co.
PokerStars has voiced interest in receiving licensing from Colombia, so there is a chance the poker site could return to the market if granted approval from Coljuegos down the track. PokerStars has had to watch its back since 2011 when it was prosecuted by the US Department of Justice in violation of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. Since then, the poker site has been distancing itself from any countries where online gambling is illegal.
Other Latin American countries are starting to look to Colombia for inspiration, with Mexico and Brazil now considering the benefits of creating a regulatory framework to allow legalised online gambling.
Earlier this year, Coljuegos president Juan Pérez Hidalgo said foreign gambling sites operating in Colombia were depriving the Colombian government of $100 million of lost revenue each year. Coljuegos strategy for a legalised gambling market includes police enforcement, regulatory reform and raising public awareness so people understand the difference between legal and illegal gambling.
South America shines in World Series of Poker Main Event
PokerStar’s departure from the Colombian market is sure to come as a huge disappointment to many players, with poker proving to be incredibly popular with Latin American players.
Argentinian poker pro Damian Salas has just been announced as having a seat at the 2017 World Series of Poker Main Event table, where each of the nine finalists are expected to walk away with at least $1 million each.
Salas will go head to head against Britain’s John Hesp, America’s Scott Blumstein, France’s Antoine Saout and five other players from France, the UK and the USA on July 20th to battle it out for the major prize of $8,150,000.
A former attorney and regular on the South American poker scene, Salas said he is fully aware of the significance that the Main Event holds.
“The truth is I play to win, and that’s what I am going to keep doing,” he said. “I never let myself look at how much money there was. The objective was always to concentrate on every hand and each situation and play my best poker with a sense of calmness. And today, well, I got emotional. Because it is just now hitting me how big this is.”