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France – Paris Court of Appeal rules that Winamax Poker Tour was illegal

By - 29 May 2018

The Court of Appeal of Paris has declared that the Winamax Poker Tour organised in October 2017 in France and whose final was held in the capital on March 6, 2018 was similar to the hosting of an illegal casino.

This judgment definitively invalidates an order made in summary on October 11, 2017 by the Commercial Court of Paris, which had estimated that there was no urgency or imminent damage, nor any obviously unlawful disorder by the company Winamax and condemned the plaintiffs, the three employers’ unions (SCMF, CdF, ACIF and Forges Thermal). The online poker operator had argued that these tournaments were free for the participants and that there was no cash distribution.

For this new case, the plaintiffs have retained the same approach as before, claiming that “Winamax has only two licenses granted by the Regulatory Authority for Online Games to exploit its legislative and regulatory framework derived from the law of 12 May 2010 codified in part to the code of internal security, online poker and sports betting, exclusively online, so that it is forbidden to organise poker tournament in theaters . The transaction in question constitutes the offenses of unlawful holding of gambling houses, games of chance on the public highway or its dependencies and advertising for an unauthorised gambling house.”

In its judgment, the Court of Appeal said: “It is clear from the rules of the Winamax Poker Tour that the tournament is open” to all players registered on Winamax.fr. To be able to participate in the qualifying tournaments the player must have a Winamax account registered and validated.”

In order to participate players must first collect ‘tickets’ according to their activity on the tables of Winamax. These could sometimes be obtained for free but also occasionally through prorata games cash games in the preliminary tournaments organised on the Winamax website, which required financial bets from the players; meaning that the entry fee for live tournaments depends very much on the status of the player online and the loyalty points they have earned by playing real money on the site. The liklihood of qualifying can be increased, depending on the player’s involvment. It decided that Winamax could not validly maintain that there was no financial sacrifice required from the participants as the player must obligatorily open an online player account and if the tickets distributed free by the site at the registration or the stages preliminaries were not enough to win a place in the final, they were allowed to obtain others by playing sums of money or taking paid sports bets on the site Winamax.

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