French Tribunal Rules Poker Game of Skill

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Reversing a string of case law dating back to the late 1800s, a French court has ruled poker is a game of skill rather than a game of chance.

The Tribunal de Grande Instance in Toulouse made the ruling on July 20, 2011, in the case of Jean-Pierre Gleizes, a local card room operator who was accused of "organizing private poker competitions in public venues without a license."

According to current French law, only a limited number of licensed operators, both live and online, can offer gambling activities that involve "games of chance."

After hearing expert testimony from a national bridge and chess champion, a mathematics professor and a professional poker player, the court ruled in the defense’s favor and declared the evidence insufficient to prove poker is a game of chance.

The decision is now under appeal by the French government, however, as it could have dramatic ramifications for the gambling industry both offline and online.

The biggest consequence would be that poker would no longer fall under the recent Online Gaming Bill which regulated the French market, meaning operators would technically no longer be required to pay licensing fees and taxes 

The government is being pressured to expand the online gaming bill to include games of skill, however, so that could change as well.

Live poker pros would now see their income taxed though because poker would be classified as a game of skill.

The decision poker is entirely a game of skill is the first of its kind in France, although the Court of Appeal of Versailles did shift slightly in that direction in 2009 when it ruled poker is a "reasoned game of chance," where chance is reduced the greater the number of hands played.

The current decision is based primarily on the testimony of the expert witnesses, so may be overturned by France's Supreme Court where the appeal now sits.

Another outstanding issue is the decision currently only applies to Texas Hold'em.


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