France Redefines Gambling

If luck plays any role in winning, it is a game of chance, says France.

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French gambling laws will soon change in significant ways, including a complete redefinition of what constitutes gambling. The government also plans to crack down on “falsely free” games and give greater powers to regulator ARJEL.

These changes are all included in amendments to the new law on consumption, currently undergoing a debate in the legislature. Once the law is voted into force, these amendments will be part of it.

The news is especially troublesome for French poker rooms, as the new definition for gambling has been developed with the specific aim to end the skill versus chance debate concerning poker.

The current law, which came into effect in 2010, says that gambling is “a paying game where chance prevails over skill and combinations of intelligence to obtain a gain.” It is that definition that led judges in the city of Toulouse to rule in favor of poker club operators who had been accused of unlicensed gambling.

The January court decision stated that “poker is a game of chance [only] marginally, with skill predominating in practice,” adding that “[even if] chance plays [a role] for the novice, it is different for the experienced player.”

In the wake of this French gambling news, the state wanted to make sure that it would retain control over who is allowed to organize poker games in the country, and the governing party decided to submit a revised definition.

In the note accompanying the amendment, representative Razzy Hammadi provided the justification for the change. He believes that “the clarification is needed especially as, in its judgment of 17 January 2013, the Court of Appeal of Toulouse found that, for experienced players, poker could not be likened to a game of chance. Doing so, it indicated that it was appropriate to order the release of defendants prosecuted for organizing poker games involving more than a hundred players. This appears to suggest that it is allowed to organize poker games without having to be pre-approved.”

Hence the new categorization, defining prohibited activities as such: “the sale of movable and immovable goods, as well as merchandise by way of chance, or which were combined with bonuses or other benefits awarded even partially by chance, and generally all operations of any description whatsoever, open to the public, which give rise to the hope of a gain that would be due even partially to chance, and for which financial contribution is required by the operator from the participants.”

This clearly forces poker into the gambling category, with organizers obliged to be licensed by the government.

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