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Lodden: Norwegian Taxes, Mafia Bad for Poker
Johnny Lodden is one of the greatest Norwegian poker players ever but according to him taxes and organized crime in his home country are hampering poker's growth.
Lodden is currently gunning for over €1.2 million at the EPT Grand Final but he took a few minutes to speak with Danish PokerListings reporter Thomas Hviid about poker in Norway, plus his plans to shoot a reality TV show this summer in Las Vegas.
PokerListings.com: A lot of good players are coming out of Norway but live poker is illegal there. Is it tough getting experience?
Johnny Lodden: We play online and we do also get to play live poker in illegal clubs. Nowadays it is really hard with the legislation and the mafia coming in and taking over some of the clubs in Norway.
Now we have started up a new club which is really nice, but of course we don't have as many players as before.
When they know the mafia might be involved and they have families they don't want to play anymore and risk anything.
PL: There's a general election in Norway this year and some parties have already said that they want poker to be legalized. Will it happen?
Actually, the favorites to win the elections (Høyre) have gone back on it. Their youth section went out and said that they want poker to be legal and to allow casinos, but the leaders of the party said a few days ago that they will not vote for making it legal.
So it looks like it will take at least another four years and that is really bad for Norwegian poker. Poker's so popular to play and Norwegians in general love to play and have a lot of money and time to gamble.
Just look at the Norwegian Championship in March which was held in Dublin. The Main Event was the biggest tournament in the whole of Europe with around 1,200 players, and you even had to be Norwegian to play.
Just imagine if it would have been possible to hold this event in Oslo.
PL: So you can't play live poker legally and half of your winnings go to taxes – what's fun about being a poker player in Norway?
Nothing (laughs)! it's not good at all, we have everything against us.
It is annoying to pay so much tax, but I do not mind paying my taxes since I live in a country where everyone pay taxes, that is how it is.
However, I would like a tax system where you pay less tax on your winnings and where you can tell the authorities that you did not win anything this year so you cannot pay taxes.
Right now they say that you have been winning ten years straight so you have to pay, since you are a professional and you have to win.
PL: I know you also have to pay a lot in tax if you should win anything at the WSOP. Do you still plan to go there this year?
Yes, I am going there to play a few events, the Main Event of course and the $10k PLO and the Open-Face Chinese tournament. I'm going there quite late so it will only be for those three tournaments.
It is a bit annoying with the taxes in Vegas for me. For example when I went deep in the Main Event a couple of years ago, I got the same money ($317,161) as William Thorsen from Sweden, who is a good friend of mine.
At the cashier he was standing next to me and I got paid around $200.000 and he gets the full amount, and I was just thinking “What the f…”.
PL: So does it still have any value for you to play in the Main Event?
The Main Event always has a lot of value and if you get paid it's always a lot of money.
This year PokerStars have rented a big house, almost a castle, with three pools and private beach, where I will be staying with some Norwegian celebrities and qualifiers.
We'll be making a TV-show there and hopefully have a lot of fun.