It looks like Austria is getting their feet wet with the development and release of a government regulated online poker room this quarter. Casino Austria is setting up an online platform on the website Win2day. This new site is replacing another platform titled WebClub released in 2003.
The Austrian government has stated with the release of this new online poker platform they hope to regulate responsible gambling within their own country. This has raised issues of another “monopoly” of online trade in the European Union. A number of countries have already banned online poker in some form, the most recent being Finland and Germany. It may be hopeful that Austria is taking online poker in open arms, but long term results will show what benefits this will have to the online poker community as a whole.
With conflicts of interest, among other problems, poker players often bring their business elsewhere by establishing games in poker rooms based out of country. This may become even more prevalent considering the fact that Austria is limiting their government sponsored site to roughly $1000 of betting per week. They cite the betting limit being in the interest of responsible gambling, but many feel it is just another facet of control not needed in their online gaming community. This may be acceptable for the casual poker player but many would easily break that mark in a day.
Poker is currently booming in Austria and this is likely an attempt to catch a piece of that market by the government, but some question if the regulations are the best way to go about it. Rumors of a merger with the Austrian Lottery were abound but statements have been released calling the relationship one of “close ties” only wishing to benefit from the current online poker boom and no merger is planned.
What does all of this mean for online poker both in Austria and elsewhere? It could make government controlled poker sites a regular occurrence, but that is unlikely. It could create a lot of tension in the Austrian poker community with weekly bet limits established. Tighter regulations could be created, blanketing all online poker in Austria, but hopefully such things can be avoided. It does show some governments are looking more openly at online poker as something that is here to stay. If they can make a little money off the business, but keep online poker here without any unneeded regulations, I for one am all for it.