Poker in Spain – will it hold or fold?
Spanish residents like gambling. Spain has one of the highest proportions of gamblers in Europe. Statistics claim that 22.68 billion euros was spent on gambling last year, with illegal gambling said to be double that amount.
The El Gordo and ONCE lottery systems have also become massive industries in their own right, with billions being spent on tickets each year.
So how have the Spanish residents taken to the recent phenomenon of online gambling, now that broadband and software technology has allowed online games to progress into their country. Certainly when gambling laws were relaxed in 1977 there was a massive increase in gambling on fruit machines and such. So now, and with no restrictions to online gambling, Spain could be getting ready to experience another huge increase in gambling of a different kind.
Spain’s 468 licensed bingo halls have certainly seen a drop in recent years, but are people converting to online, or is it a sign of the times that people just do not have the money to enter bingo halls and casinos as much as in the past. Nielsen (net research statistics) claim only 10% of Spanish residents with an internet connection actually visited an online gambling site in 2004. But given the recent growth of broadband in Spain over the past year those statistics could be doubled by 2006.
Juega Poker Ya, who are part of the St Minver white label games network, operate Spanish poker dedicated to Spanish residents. Since its launch, it claims to have seen an increase in the numbers of players signing up of some 30% each month, with the average cash drop per player almost twice that for the UK.
The Poker phenomenon arrived in Spain having worked its way around Europe over the past two years, to become the fastest growing internet sensation. Similar to the popular Spanish gambling game Mus, poker is a game of great skill and psychology where players try to out fox the competition.
Over 12 million people worldwide have already played poker online this year alone with the global market continuing to grow at more than 10% every month. Thousands of budding Spanish poker players are queuing up to learn how to play the world’s greatest card game in the hope of repeating the success of Spanish poker supremo Carlos Mortenson, World Poker Champion just three years ago.
What was once the domain of smoked filled gentleman’s clubs has been transformed by the internet into a highly competitive, compelling leisure activity, where groups of players from around the world come together to play cards and chat over the Internet.
Are the Spanish more cautious
Spanish players are a little more cautious. While the numbers of players signing up are growing rapidly, the actual conversion rate (people actually making cash deposits) is lower. Players could be concerned over the security of such poker sites and perhaps they are they holding back until online game brands become more established and the confidence in them grows.
Poker sites certainly take enough precautions to ensure their sites are secure and to allow players the confidence in the sites. Juegapokerya for example has well established fraud procedures in place to monitor any fraudulent behaviour.
Cheaters pose little or not threat in online poker. No one can mark the cards, no one can peak at your exposed or holed cards and no one can stack the deck or deal from the bottom. Playing poker on line is very safe. The things that can and do happen in land based poker rooms cannot and do not happen online.
However, there is one thing that happens in land based casinos that cheaters do try to get away with online. They try to collude. That is, they try to share information and play their hands in order to help each other win. This is also known as playing partners. Customer services monitor their poker sites and track all the play in real time. Any suspected collusion is reported to the security or fraud department for a particular site. Accounts are locked immediately pending a detailed investigation. Play is checked over a period of days to find out if the players involved in the original incident have a history of playing together on the same site. Patterns of play are also studied in detail. Chat logs are continuously monitored and recorded. Colluders will have their accounts frozen and can be banned from the site and all affiliated sites. Some sites will even report to unconnected sites to warn them of potential cheaters.
So when they sign up with the many poker sites now entering into the Spanish markets, players can be assured that the sites will be well protected from all fraudulent behaviour. It may be this factor that proves to the Spanish that online gambling is a feasible prospect
So are the signs there that Spanish players will take hold of this online gambling phenomenon? Well, of the 40 million people in Spain, with 37% now having internet access, the potential for money making is there, and certainly companies will find it tempting to delve into the Spanish markets in the hope of tempting Europe’s most eager gamblers to part with their well earned cash.