Italian players on the giant online poker site PokerStars.com are being moved across to the company's PokerStars.it website in order to comply with local regulator AAMS requirements, the company has announced.
 
Regulatory changes become effective in Italy today (July 29th), requiring that only tournament play is permitted; sites operating and licensed in Italy may only accept Italian taxpayers as players; the operating site’s servers must be located in Italy and every tournament must be pre-approved in real-time by the AAMS. There are restrictions on how long a player should be permitted to play, and on cash games.
 
The changes have the approval of the European Commission, granted in February this year, but still caught most players offguard. Gioco Digitale appeared to be well prepared, but other Italian-licensed sites seemed to be scrambling to some extent to comply timeously with the implementation of the regulations.
 
PokerStars explained that the initiative to transfer Italian players to the Italian website of the company was necessary to avoid prosecution and difficulties with the Italian authorities.
 
"We have no choice in this matter," a statement from PokerStars revealed. "The law that was passed recently by the Italian Parliament has made it very clear that offering real money online poker games to Italian residents can only be done by the sites that hold an AAMS licence, like our PokerStars.it site, and the operators that breach this provision are committing a criminal offence. Note that this new law has been submitted for approval to the European Union, and the approval was granted.”
 
The statement went on to reveal that PokerStars had been advised directly by the Italian government that it should cease offering service to Italian customers using the PokerStars.com website with effect from July 29th, and that management had agreed to comply with the Italian request.
 
“Starting from the 27th of July 2009, Italian players will not be able to play at PokerStars.com tables any longer, but they will be able to either transfer their assets to PokerStars.it or convert their PokerStars.com account into a PokerStars.it account if they do not have one already”, the statement concluded.
 
It is not at present known how great an impact the loss of the Italian players will have on player liquidity on the international PokerStars.com website, and the EC approval of the rather parochial Italian regulations raises interesting questions regarding EU principles of free movement of trade and services between member nations. At first blush, it would also appear that the many respected Italian poker pros may be restricted from global online poker action unless they are playing from outside of Italy, although their position is still not clear.