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Montenegro is one of the world’s youngest countries, not long ago being part of Yugoslavia, then breaking off to form Serbia and Montenegro, then finally in 2006, breaking off from Serbia to form their own country, Montenegro.
One of the first things that Montenegro did once becoming their own country was to make gambling legal. Unlike a lot of newer countries, they didn’t waste any time putting together fairly clear and comprehensive gambling regulations, all under the control of the Games of Chance Administration.
Anyone can receive a license to run a gaming operation in Montenegro provided they meet the conditions of licensure. So unlike some countries which look to either severely limit who can offer gambling in their country, Montenegro is fairly progressive in this regard, at least as far as land based gambling regulation is concerned. (1)
Having their country born in the era of the EU, and in particular in an era where the EU has been aggressively pursuing member countries to comply with their vision of free trade as it should apply to gambling regulations, and given Montenegro’s desire to become a member of the EU and its present candidate status, it isn’t that much of a surprise that they have fashioned at least a somewhat EU friendly set of gambling regulations, and in particular, encouraging the foreign participation in it that the EU prefers. (2)
This desire and commitment continues to influence the country of Montenegro’s approach to gambling regulation as the industry and conditions continue to evolve. They prefer to work closely with industry members to seek to take their interests into account more than you usually see with gambling regulation, and therefore have taken a more practical route to the common goal of the promotion of gambling in the country.
Montenegro offers a full range of regulated gaming, including lottery, bingo, sports betting, and casino games. The country offers 5 live casinos, which is a good amount for a country of this small size to be sure, although the availability of live poker is pretty limited, in spite of poker being fairly popular here, and Montenegro even hosts its own WPT stop. (3)
Online Poker in Montenegro
So while the live poker scene in Montenegro isn’t much to get excited about, there’s plenty of opportunities for poker players from Montenegro to get involved in poker, at least online.
Montenegro actually has regulated online poker, which they have had since 2011, and even have an officially licensed poker room, Monte Stars, which isn’t a stand alone operation at all, which would be doomed to failure in a country of this small size actually, it is on the Microgaming Network, where players can play against other players from a wide array of other countries brought into the pool from the other skins on this worldwide network.
So unlike some countries who have sought to regulate online gambling but have been so focused on casino and sports betting that poker gets thrown under the rug so to speak, and with this being especially true in smaller countries who simply don’t have a large poker player base, Montenegro has not forgotten poker, and at least have attempted to regulate online poker play in their country.
The Monte Stars brand at least puts a face on Montenegro online poker and while playing at it in Montenegro is essentially voluntary, they have at least sought to garner at least some of the online poker traffic through regulation.
Of course, complying with online poker regulation is essentially voluntary anywhere, as players will simply play where they want anyway, and in the case of Montenegro, there are some big names in the industry that a lot of players find too appealing to resist.
Montenegro doesn’t have any restrictions on playing at unregulated online poker sites at this time, although efforts to block players are only somewhat effective anyway, but players here don’t have to jump through any hoops to access whatever online poker sites they wish to play at, which is definitely better.
The Offshoot Of This Regulatory Scheme
One of the big issues with the Monte Stars deal is that they were given the exclusive right to offer online poker in Montenegro, therefore shutting out the possibility of more licenses being issued.
It could be argued that the online poker market in Montenegro is pretty small and that it might even be ambitious to think that the market could support a number of different operators and licenses, and this might even be true, but what happens with such an approach is that the unlicensed sites still get their market share, regardless of whether they are given a license or not, and at least some of these online poker sites might be convinced to bring their players into the regulatory mix.
So it would seem that the granting of a monopoly essentially to this one poker site on this one single poker network might not be the wisest approach, at least from the perspective of the Montenegro government and their efforts to expand the reach of taxation of online poker.
They have also deviated, at least to some degree, with the fundamental mission of the EU, which is to expand competition and move away from monopolies. On the other hand, the decision may have been between having this one single online poker site being brought into the fold and none at all being regulated, so if that’s the case, and it very well may be, then the decision may make sense.
As far as Montenegro online poker players go though, they probably don’t care about any of this, and there’s no reason why they should actually, as they can just continue to play wherever they want, and therefore it doesn’t matter whether Montenegro has one license issued for online poker, several licenses, or none at all.
If and when we see the gloves come off and see some attempts by the government to seek to limit access to players to download software from particular poker sites, blacklisting in other words, or interfering with the free flow of money by looking to prohibit certain financial transactions with these poker sites, then this will be a different matter, although that sort of thing doesn’t work particularly well anywhere, so at best this will slow down but certainly will not halt the internet freedom of poker players.