Lately the Italian government has been “thinking outside the box” for ways to replace lost revenues, and like many they are turning to the cash cow that is online poker. What makes their “legalization” special is the limitations they’re currently putting on players in their country, and the proposed reforms that are rolling out in the next week. But what does this mean for US players?
Poker In Italy
Currently, online poker rooms in Italy have many restrictions. Players are only allowed to play in Tournament style games, and firing up a cash game is out of the question; they aren’t allowed. The government is also trying to limit the amount of “pro” players who live in Italy (this is not an official position of the government, but actions speak louder than words), as the amount of time per day you can play is limited, and the choice of which poker room to play in is limited to sites with an Italian ISP, and sites who have met the requirements for Italy’s State Monopolies Autonomous Administration (AAMS) license, effectively removing the ability for international competition from Italian players. Currently the only site that has met the strict government requirements is Pokerstars.it.
So, what does this mean for US poker?
How would you feel playing under such a system? There are reforms coming to Italy, but it seems pretty clear that they are using the (massive) revenue streams from online poker to fill their coffers, and are very unlikely to open up to any poker room not lining their pockets. All of their current restrictions on online poker have nothing to do with what is best for the player (unless you consider having yourgovernment limit the amount of time you play to be a good thing), and have everything to do with controlling a market that is making them money. And if you think the United States is any different, or if you think that their coming reforms have any other motivation than money, then you are wrong.
The US is currently looking for a model that is profitable to all levels of government, and they are looking all around the world at what is working and whatisn’t . Sadly, the Italian system is making their government money, the coming “reforms” are only adding revenue streams (video poker, expanded scratch licences et all), and that makes it a viable option to poach from.