A Dutch appellate court recently overturned rulings by two lower courts declaring poker is a game of skill. It’s a major setback for Dutch poker enthusiasts and potential operators who hoped the previous rulings would be upheld and that the Netherlands was being ushered into a golden age of poker.

The game of chance ruling is the culmination of a case that started back in 2007 when cafe owners Richard Blaas and Rene Kurver hosted a €10 buy-in tournament at their Café de Viersprong Bussem. The two men were promptly arrested and charged with hosting an unlicensed game of chance.

In their defense, which was put on by prominent Dutch attorney Peter Plasman, the men argued that poker is, indeed, a game of skill not chance. The judge in the case agreed and the men were cleared of any wrongdoing, but that wasn’t the end of the story.

Eager to add some clarity to some very murky legal definitions of what exactly constitutes a game of chance, prosecutors took their fight to the Court of Appeals.

In that hearing, Plasman argued that poker is a legitimate game of skill and backed up his argument by stating that Dutch tax authorities recognize poker player as a legitimate profession. The argument, however nuanced, did not hold much weight with the appellate judge.

In its ruling the appellate court did not mince words saying:

…every game in which the probability of winning depends on chance, even if the probability increases with more proficiency or greater skill of the player.

The judge also emphasized that the element of chance is increased by the fact that players have no control over which cards are dealt their way.

Though the ruling doesn’t kill poker in the Netherlands entirely, it does severely limit where individual tournaments, even very small ones, can take place.


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