Not long ago, a merger between The Stars Group and Flutter Entertainment was completed. The merger was huge and with Flutter gaming over, it was expected that some type of change would be imminent. However, what took place this week was not really expected. PokerStars services have now been removed from Macau, China and Taiwan. The news was provided by players on the TwoPlusTwo forums as well as other news outlets.
Because the areas where PokerStars pulled out from are quite large, it is expected that thousands of players will be without access to the site they once played at. An earnings call by Flutter provided a hint that big changes were coming. The company was taking a look at legal, tax and regulatory risk of services within the international market. They want to remain in compliance fully.
The company did find a few jurisdictions that they determined were unsuitable for operation. These markets were to be switched off. Flutter estimated that the impact would be a reduction of c.£65M in monetary contributions.
Flutter is expanding into more regulated markets, so they want to be sure that they have a clean portfolio when it comes to operations. Offering services in a black market might be a deal breaker for some areas, including the United States.
Players located in Taiwan, China and Macau can cash out from their accounts. PokerStars provided email, assuring players they would be able to remove funds. The minimum withdrawal requirement has been lifted so that players can easily remove the balance from their account.
Flutter has big plans for the United States and operating in black markets is a big no-no in the nation. In the past, PokerStars has had to deal with legal issues due to offering services in the states post-UIGEA. The online poker giant has made a complete turnaround and has gained a respectable reputation in the US for operations like in New Jersey. However, they are still considered bad actors in some states like California, which had led to a slow down of online poker legalization.
So, for Flutter, they want to ensure the PokerStars brand is operating as they should be, in areas that are regulated and with licensing in place. It will not be surprising to see Flutter remove PokerStars from gray area markets in order to avoid any issues as they look to grow their status in the US.
Speculation has it that PokerStars may look to exit Russia next. Back in May, Betfair exited the country, and they are a brand under the Flutter name. This might be a sign that PokerStars will be pulling out of the country next.
Only time will tell what exactly Flutter will do with its newly formed company as well as how PokerStars will fare. Hopefully, the changes will affect the company in the positive and allow Flutter to continue its steady ascent into the United States gambling market. It will be exciting to see what changes are made and how it plays out.