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Poker Under Fire in France

Law, 2006-12-25, by TwoGun

Submitted by: Kaishaku

The bill concerning the prevention of delinquency sponsored by Nicolas Sarkozy and voted on December 5, 2006 must still pass the French Senate before becoming law. However, the French poker world has already changed.

This bill, wrote after the riots of 2005, targets all the "new faces if delinquency in France." The bill is vast and covers subjects such as the censorship of violent video games as well as two amendments concerning online gambling.

The Amendment n°254 is similar to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act that was passed in the US. This amendment would have the banks block all transactions with online gambling companies that are in violation of French law.

It's important to note that, for now, Neteller and other e-wallets are not targeted by this bill. More than 95% of the transactions made with the online casinos are made via credit card, so for the moment, it's unlikely that Neteller will be targeted.

The Amendment n°255 targets the Internet providers. When an internet surfer connects to an online gambling site, companies such as Francetelecom, Free, Alice, will have to indicate to their customers that this site is forbidden by French law. The internet providers will also have to inform their customers of the legal sanctions they risk by gambling online.

Two others amendments were presented but canceled for now. This amendments were made to establish harder sanctions against illegal players. The Court of Justice of the European Communities (also called the European Court Of Justice) is in charge of this case.

The timing of this bill is not 'the fruit of randomness'. Many French casino and other European online gambling companies have asked the European Commission to pronounce its position on the monopoly of La Française Des Jeux on gambling business in France. The current bill is a nice answer "à la française" to those in Europe who would dare challenge the French government's monopoly.

The second part of the anti-poker campaign is currently ongoing. The "Renseignements Généraux" (French FBI) is on the offensive. On December 7th, they surprised a bridge club in Toulouse, which hosted an illegal poker game. No arrests were made, but it's a good example of the sort of tactics the RGs are using to intimidate poker players. The RGs are putting poker games organizers under pressure. Even a poker game hosted for the Thelethon (a 48h tv show to collect some funds for medical research) was cancelled. "The charitable intention changes nothing in the matter" said the RGs.

One home game organizer who was visited by the RGs commented, "The pressure is stronger. There were 20 players at my home. The stakes were €10 plus €2 to buy some orange juice. Nothing big. But visibly, they want to do a big clean sweep." If we believe the RGs, these operations are only the beginning before a full-out offensive on internet poker.

The RGs have already begun their assault on online poker by hitting a symbol. Patrick Bruel, French singer, actor, winner of a WSOP bracelet, commentator of the WPT in France, and icon of poker in France has been interrogated by the RGs recently on his involvement with Winamax and WAM poker. No charges were filed against him. Here, as in the Bwin case, it's the advertising which prompted the investigation. Just as the Bwin advertising was pulled from the soccer stadiums, Bruel was asked to do his advertising job for Winamax with less professionalism.

What remains to be seen is who will be the target. The players? The Internet providers? The companies? The companies' CEOs like in the Bwin case? We will also have to wait for the verdict of the European Commission before we go crazy, pack up all our things and take a ticket to Malta...or Italy, which, by the way, just decided to regulate online gambling after a troubling period strangely similar to ours. Italy decided to legalize online gambling after they...taxed it, of course!!! The example of Italy will surely be an inspiration for the Europe Commission.

To finish, on a more anecdotal point, the good old clichés about poker are not dead in France. Notably, on a french national radio RMC, in the show 'Les Grandes Gueules', Anna Salabi, a lawyer, said about poker, "It's a capitalist and misogynist game. The women are not accepted in poker. There's a whole image: you play poker, you bang a whore, you drink booze. Well I don't know. I don't like it..."

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