The French Regulatory Authority of Online Games – ARJEL (Autorité de Régulation des Jeux En Ligne) – flexed its muscles and closed down a portion of the popular PokerStars online poker network to French poker players. The reason for the shutdown was the recent introduction of a new Poker Stars feature called ‘Home Games’. The new feature allows players to create virtual private ‘clubs’, invite their friends, and enjoy the equivalent of Friday night home poker games.
Poker Stars ‘Home Games’ allows one individual from the ‘Home Games’ private club to becomes a virtual manager, with the ability to create private French poker rooms, create private tournaments with buy-ins and even create a private leaderboard with agreed upon prizes. Those abilities are too similar to those of a casino owner according to ARJEL.
ARJEL believes that the abilities granted to the manager of the “club” is not acceptable according to French law, since it is the equivalent of starting a private unlicensed mini-casino within the Poker Stars Network. Poker Stars has been licensed since July of 2010 to run online poker games in France, yet the manager of each private ‘club’ in ‘Home Games’ does not have a license to manage an online casino in France.
The individual countries of Europe either don’t care about online casinos, only like online casinos based out of their country, allow licensing of foreign online casinos or view online casinos as the greatest evil unleashed upon the world, somewhere between cannibalism and bestiality. French gambling laws, considered amongst the strictest in Europe, control, license and strictly regulates all domestic and foreign online casinos and poker rooms through ARJEL. Recent modifications of the French gambling laws (to make them even stricter) triggered an automatic investigation of Poker Stars.
ARJEL has not given a concrete answer as to when the issue may be resolved, but sources say it could take many months for government attorneys to decide if ‘Home Games’ violate French gambling laws. In a terse news release ARJEL stated – ‘The Regulatory Authority of Online Games (ARJEL) decided to make a system analysis of Home Games to be able to ensure compliance with French law.’