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Austria – Peter Zanoni throws in the cards on battle to keep Austrian poker clubs open

By - 9 March 2020

Austrian Poker King Peter Zanoni has given up on his fight against the tax authorities and his battle to keep his 12 poker venues across Austria open.

He said he can no longer wait for the outcome of a complaint pending before the Constitutional Court (VfGH), which should have been decided in February. Tax debts of around €600m would have accumulated over the years.

Mr. Zanoni said: “Not even dear God can pay that. With great regret I see the need to announce that I will have to close the Concord Card Casinos today. For every gross euro I have to pay a five euro tax, and there is still no war victim tax and amusement tax, each of which has a strangling effect. This is simply a chase that is now over.”

The bankruptcy filing will be filed this week. Mr. Zanoni recently unlocked seven of its 12 Concord Card Casinos to offer free play there and to await the decision of the VfGH and the CJEU. Before that, he had had to close his twelve venues in early January after raids by the financial police, after his licenses had expired.

The end of January saw the closure of Concord Card Casinos which have been offering professional poker games at 12 locations in Austria since 1993.
The Austrian Financial Police began executing the Gambling Act on January 2 and visited one Concord branch after another.

A raid towards end of the month at the Montesino venue was the last action for Concord with a €100,000 guaranteed tournament planned for the following weekend cancelled and all branches of the Concord Group were subsequently closed.

Concord had vowed to take legal action.

Mr. Zanoni, stated back then: “Due to the ongoing, illegal and excessive administrative measures against the Concord Group’s operations – despite the national and international provisional legal protection procedures, the management announces that as of today, all of the Concord Group’s operations have been voluntarily closed to avoid that guests and employees are still exposed to the unqualified pressure of the financial police, which is far beyond their competence.
“Since neither the responsible politicians, stakeholders and the highest executive bodies, despite repeated requests, including those supported by universities, have been required to put an end to this arbitrary procedure by the financial police and to ensure that the statutory provisions are complied with in accordance with the constitution, our operations must continue to operate de facto no longer possible,” it added. “We assure all of our employees and our customers that we do everything in our power to enable undisturbed operation in the future.”

Poker has only been allowed in Austria in casinos, since the start of the year. Poker has only been considered a game of chance for a few years, previously it only required a business license. Due to a transition period, Mr. Zanoni’s old license was valid until the end of 2019. Mr. Zanoni has been involved in numerous proceedings at the Administrative and Constitutional Court over tax issues.

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