ACR Poker to pull services from Germany

Haley Hintze
Published by:
Posted on: January 24, 2024 4:41 am EST

ACR Poker, the flagship site of the Winning Poker Network, has notified players from Germany who participate on its site that it has immediately stopped providing services, and that existing balances on the site must be withdrawn by January 28, 2024, after which connectivity to IP addresses originating from the country will be blocked.

The notification was sent in recent days to players who have listed Germany as their country of residence and who also still connect to the site from Germany. The message apologizes for the “short notice” of the withdrawal while making clear the decision came under pressure from German gambling regulators, who have ramped up enforcement against unlicensed operators in recent months. Germany’s onerous and often contradictory licensing regime has long been a nightmare for online operators, produced numerous court battles, and is still deemed by parties on all sides as an imperfect situation.

Though ACR’s message as sent to players, published yesterday by German-language poker site Hochgepokert, references only ACR itself, it is likely that all WPN skins will withdraw their services from the country in a few days.

Image source: Hochgepokert.com

ACR infers enforcement notices also sent to other operators

The message ACR sent to German players declares that the message was sent to “some online poker brand operators,” without naming any competing operators who have also been contacted. Germany’s Joint Gaming Authority of the States, the agency currently charged with enforcing the country’s stringent licensing regime, has added additional enforcement mandates since late 2022.

ACR did not offer details on the enforcement efforts the German regulators have undertaken. Penalties and actions in other German enforcement cases have ranged from fines levied against operators to attempts to close third-party payment channels or blacklist online domains. ACR likely serves only a small population of online players from Germany, likely making its withdrawal from the country the easier option.

Added urgency for the country’s efforts against grey-market operators may have been fueled by a controversial report published last November, funded by two German gambling-industry groups, declaring that almost half of the money spent online by German gamblers flows to unlicensed international sites.

Online poker represents only a tiny slice of that overall market, which is led by online sports betting and casino games. Further, in online poker, large numbers of German pros have already relocated to other jurisdictions where they can play on many more sites. Neighboring Austria has been a favorite destination for many of these players. ACR has already blocked players from a handful of other firewalled European countries, though Germany is the continent’s largest country by population.