Are card games like bridge and poker games or are they sports? According to a recent ruling by a European court, the popular card game is just a game. That has major tax implications for anyone who plays in bridge tournaments at the professional level.

The issue came to the attention of the European Court in Luxembourg after the English Bridge Union (EBU) got into something of a spat with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) over entry fees for bridge tournaments. In the EBU’s eyes, those fees should be exempted from taxes in the same way that entry fees for sporting events are exempted. Despite the staid reputation of both groups, they could not see eye-to-eye and took the matter to court. In this case, the court was the European Court in Luxembourg.

As it turns out, the judges impaneled at the EU Court were, themselves, a bit divided on the subject. Maciej Szpunar,a European Court lawyer said that bridge is good for the mind and suggested that it should not be taxed. His voice, however, remained part of the minority opinion in the matter. The majority opinion, in the court anyways, was, “Activities of pure rest or relaxation cannot be regarded as a sport.”

Critics have long blasted mental games such as chess, bridge and (yes) poker, as mere games because they lack the physical athleticism found in rigorous sports such as golf and curling.

Bridge is, however, viewed as a sport by an authority no less than the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The IOC has classified the game as a sport for almost 20 years.


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