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Austria – Austria’s poker clubs to fight for a future past January 2020 cut-off

By - 12 November 2019

Austria’s poker clubs are to fight for their future with transitional regulation for private poker casinos set to expire on January 1, 2020 meaning that from that date, poker can only be legally played in Casinos Austria’s properties.

Peter Zanoni, owner of Concord Card Casinos, which recently celebrated 26 years of operation, confirmed at a press conference that he would battle to keep his 12 poker properties open, claiming that the gambling monopoly in the Austrian gambling law violates EU laws.

At the press conference, held on November 11, Dr. Thomas Klicka, an expert on civil procedural law at the Universities of Vienna and Münster explained that as far back as 1994, the European Court of Justice had ruled that gambling falls under the commercial law which requires a freedom of service and trade. Dr. Andreas Schuster, an expert on gambling law, said that, in his opinion, the state has a double standard and is incompatible with existing EU law. It is a violation of the principle of equality. The Austrian High Courts have violated their duty of referral to the European Court of Justice, which therefore cannot take a decision because individuals and companies cannot approach the European Court of Justice themselves.

The Austrian gambling law initially did not consider poker as a game of chance. This changed with a law change in 2013 that stipulates that poker from 2020 may only be played in licensed casinos, but not in private poker rooms.

Mr. Zanoni highlighted that Concord employs 600 people with 40,000 visits per month, generating 65,000 overnight stays in Austria every year. He stressed his desire to keep his poker casinos open over the next year and said he had appointments booked with delegates to the Austrian Parliament over the coming weeks.

The Austrian Constitutional Court is currently hearing a complaint from Concord Card Casinos, and the European Court of Justice is also being charged with the matter.

Niklas Sattler, Poker Manager at Casinos Austria, confirmed that the casino group would embark on a poker offensive next year. A new four table Poker Lounge opened at the Casino Austria venue in Vienna at the beginning of October. Austrian poker pros like Jessuca Teusl and Erich Kollmann as well as the German poker star Feder Holz were there.

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