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International Poker News Briefs, March 13, 2009

International Poker News Briefs, March 13, 2009 0001

EU Committee Spurns Notion of Unified Online Gaming

In a lopsided vote last Tuesday in Strasbourg, France, Members of the European Parliament resoundingly rejected the idea of creating a unified EU market for online gaming. The vote — 544 in favor, 36 against, with 66 abstentions — adopted a nonbinding report drafted for the parliament by Danish Socialist MEP Christel Schaldemose. Her report takes a dim view of online gaming, stating that it "provides increased opportunities for corrupt practices." It urged EU countries to enforce unified safety measures such as age limits and constraints on advertising — while leaving jurisdiction to the individual member countries concerning how much, or how little, to open up their markets to online gaming.

A rejected minority report argued that online gambling should be regulated in the same way as any other economic activity, which would mean internal market rules protecting the freedom to provide services should apply. It also asserted that the much-ballyhooed dangers of online gambling are still unproven. According to Clive Hawkswood, Chief Executive of the Remote Gambling Association, the European Parliament's decision was more about protecting the status quo "…rather than the integrity of online gaming, which was meant to be its real purpose."

France Moves Closer to Legalized Online Gaming

In a somewhat related story, after persistent pressure from the European Commission, France is moving forward with its plan to open up its state-controlled market to online gaming. Last week, French Budget Minister Eric Woerth unveiled a new program to allow online operators to bid for French gaming licenses for sports betting and poker. Wednesday, it was confirmed that the plan will levy a tax of two percent for online poker and 7.5 percent for online betting on sports and horse racing. The bill, which is scheduled to be presented to the French legislature before the summer recess, will provide for the creation of a regulatory authority to award the licenses and to set guidelines which should defend against potential fraud and underage gambling. If approved, the changes would likely be enacted some time in 2010.

Philippines Considers Online Gambling Ban

Filipino newspaper The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported recently that legislation to ban internet gaming in that country is now in the works. Narciso Santiago, a member of the minority party known as The Alliance for Rural Concerns, has proposed a bill which would make it a criminal offense for any gambling operation to use the internet, or any other interactive computer service, to "place, receive, or otherwise make a bet or wager; or send, receive, or invite information that may assist in the placing of a bet or wager." Exemptions would be made for the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office lotto, live horse races, and fantasy sports leagues. Citing concerns for impressionable minors who can be "enticed" to gamble, as well as the potential for online gaming to be used for money laundering, Santiago recommended severe penalties for anyone who would violate the bill. Such penalties could include a fine equal to the amount wagered, four years in prison — or both.

Israel Blocks Live Poker Event

There won't be any Texas hold'em poker tournaments in Israel this year, at least not if Israel's Police have anything to say about it. Israeli officials recently banned the Israel Poker Association from running its annual championship tournament in Tel Aviv. The tournament, which according to the IPA is always run under strict guidelines, drew approximately 600 runners last year for a total prize pool in the neighborhood of $29,000 USD. But on the basis of a June 2008 ruling from the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court, Israeli Police are maintaining that Texas hold'em is primarily a game of luck and therefore illegal. The IPA is currently appealing the ban. In the appeal, the IPA has called on Tel Aviv University's Professor of Mathematics, Ehud Lehrer, who puts forth the argument that players must strategize and calculate odds as a necessary part of competing in a Texas hold'em tournament.

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