Amid a spate of withdrawals from mid-level markets, including Israel and Slovenia in 2016, PokerStars recently secured another regional foothold in the Czech Republic.
The globally leading online poker company, which also operates a thriving online casino platform, issued a press release on January 31 to announce that it had been issued the first international operator license under the Czech government’s new iGaming regulation.
Per the press release, the newly launched PokerStars.cz domain will operate under the strict new licensing policies put in place by the Czech State Supervision of Gambling and Lotteries Department.
In June of 2016, the Czech president Miloš Zeman signed sweeping legislation to create, tax, and regulate a legal online gambling industry. The new laws were designed to replace the previous “grey zone” in which major iGaming companies like PokerStars, William Hill, and several others had been serving Czech players in a quasi-legal fashion for many years.
The U.K.-based sports betting titan William Hill pulled out of the Czech Republic ahead of the new laws being officially enacted on January 1 of this year, but PokerStars successfully applied to join a dozen domestic iGaming entities as the first international operator.
According to PokerStars chief operating officer Guy Templer, the company’s decision to remain in the market and participate in the regulatory process was a priority:
“We are very proud to be the first online casino and poker operator to be awarded a license and support the newly regulated Czech market.
This underscores our commitment to supporting local regulations and obtaining local licenses wherever possible.”
The iGaming legislation, which was authorized by the Czech legislature in a unanimous 42-0 vote, leans toward the restrictive end of the industry spectrum. Licensees will see their gross gaming revenue taxed at a rate of 35 percent, while a subsequent 19 percent corporate tax is also imposed.
Players will be forced to contend with curious burdens as well. The maximum allowable limit for a single online poker wager stands at 1,000 Czech koruna – or just under $41 – while winnings from any cash game or tournament cannot exceed 50,000 Czech koruna ($2,049).
One reason PokerStars chose to remain in the Czech market despite these impositions is the country’s status as a hotbed for European poker. The capital of Prague was a prime stop on the PokerStars-sponsored European Poker Tour (EPT) for several years, and the city is home to dozens of land-based casinos and card rooms.
According to the press release, PokerStars will connect players in the Czech Republic to “a wide range of poker games and tournament formats across its shared global liquidity.” In addition to poker, the company’s casino platform includes both Classic and Premium blackjack, along with European and Double Ball roulette tables.
The PokerStars.cz site can be accessed via desktop or laptop through the Windows and Mac operating systems, and mobile users on iOS or Android devices can also participate.
PokerStars parent company Amaya also billed itself as the “most licensed online gaming brand” in the statement, as the Czech Republic became the 17th country to award approval.
Sports betting enthusiasts will be glad to note that Amaya has also submitted an application on behalf of its BetStars online sportsbook brand.