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Like many other European Union member states, Italy has a fenced online gambling market. This means Italians have to play on locally regulated poker networks. These are completely unavailable to people residing abroad. Other than that, Italian regulations are quite poker-friendly. They recognize the fact that poker is a game of skill, allow players to participate in a wide range of games, and don’t put unnecessary burdens on operators.
According to Law no. 383/01, introduced in 2001, Agenzia delle dogane e dei Monopoli (ADM) is the sole regulator of all gambling activities in Italy. All forms of internet gambling are considered legal as long as the operator has an Italian gambling license or a signed business agreement with a license holder. Regulations pertaining to online poker tournaments and cash games are listed in the ADM Director Decree dating back to Jan. 10, 2011.
As per the aforementioned 2011 ADM decree, Italy-facing internet poker operators are free to offer all the popular cash game, STT, and MTT options to Italy residents. ADM does not force poker sites to use geo-location plugins. Instead, regulations forbid them from offering real-money games to anyone without an Italian fiscal code. Moreover, Italian ISPs are required to block offshore gambling sites.
As a result, neither Italian players nor foreigners can “hop the fence” surrounding the market. In this case, lawmakers succeeded in completely isolating the local internet poker scene from the rest of the globe. The only way out would be to use a VP. However, legitimate poker sites almost always close the account of an offending player if they detect this sort of abuse.
As mentioned above, poker is considered a skill-based game in Italy. Thus, according to Article 1, Paragraph 945 of Law no. 208/2015, players have to pay a single 20 percent tax on all sums not returned to them. In the case of poker, this refers specifically to rake and tournament fees.
Quite obviously, a higher rake will negatively impact players’ profits. The extent of this impact differs from one poker variant to another. In fact, even stakes come into the equation, as turning a profit in low-stakes games typically requires more grinding. For example, the profit margins for micro-stakes cash games tend to be really low. This makes them nearly “unwinnable” for most Italian players. This isn’t such a big issue in the case of MTTs and other single-payout formats.
Italian poker enthusiasts have only two regulated platforms. Since one is three times as big as the other, the choice doesn’t seem too difficult. However, it is worth noting not everything is what it seems in the online poker world. In most cases, the less-popular sites feature softer games. These are exploitable as long as the overall traffic is at an acceptable level.
The above patterns hold true when it comes to PokerStars.it and iPoker.it.
PokerStars Europe aside, the company’s Italian branch is the largest and healthiest poker room of all the ones available on any fenced European market. The player pool is about 10 times smaller than in the case of the international version of PokerStars, but that’s more than enough to keep the cash games running and to provide MTT enthusiasts with generous prize pools.
As far as selection, expect healthy Hold’em cash games, Sit & Go tournaments that don’t take ages to take off. Additionally, there are multi-table tournaments with decent prize pools and an Omaha lobby that isn’t empty. If you love poker and you live in Italy, PokerStars.it is very likely to push all the right buttons for you.
Aside from the main PokerStars poker room, PokerStars.it’s sister sites include PokerStars Europe, PokerStars.pt, and PokerStars NJ.
As mentioned previously, iPoker.it is about three times smaller than PokerStars.it. That’s actually a great success if you consider the differences in traffic between those platforms on the global poker scene. It’s also worth noting “three times smaller” doesn’t mean small in this case. More than 600 players during peak traffic hours are more than enough to sustain iPoker’s flagship low-stakes games.
This site is a decent choice for inexperienced poker enthusiasts. Low-stakes cash games and low buy-in tournaments sit in the spotlight. The games are also very loose with plenty of post-flop action.
The seven-day average for players participating in standard cash games hosted on all Italy-licensed sites falls within the 1,100-1,300 range. This number rises to 2,200-2,800 when traffic reaches its peak. That tends to occur between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. (GMT).
The variance is very high. Plus, it’s hard to discern any reliable patterns. Sometimes the seven-day peak will occur on Monday, while another time it may be on a Saturday.
The number of active players doesn’t dip below 2,000 around the peak, but it’s worth noting it does drop below 1,000 during off-hours. Consequently, timing poker sessions correctly will positively impact profitability. You’ll also get more options when it comes to table selection during peak hours.
Italy currently boasts 11 high-profile land-based poker rooms. Unfortunately, none seem to be particularly noteworthy:
Italian gambling regulations are considered fairly reasonable these days. This hasn’t always been the case though.
In the early days of online poker, the relevant laws were needlessly restrictive. Players were outright prohibited from participating in online poker games. Fortunately, much like in the case of other Western countries, these regulations weren’t enforced back in the day. As a result, when Italian poker enthusiasts witnessed Chris Moneymaker win the 2003 WSOP Main Event, they did what pretty much everyone else did at the time. Without a care in the world, they started joining global poker networks en masse.
Italian regulators took a few years to notice they were bleeding money due to strict, outdated laws. Still, they managed to plug this leak well ahead of other European governments.
In 2007, the country put the first batch of internet poker regulations on the books, establishing the Italian fenced poker market. Back then, local players weren’t allowed to participate in online cash games. Fortunately, ADM officials recognized the error of their ways fairly quickly. They removed the restriction in the aforementioned 2011 Director Decree.