Spain has announced that the Treasury now considers poker a sport and that they will tax poker players the same way as professional athletes.
The new legislation included the statement “billiards, chess, and card players will also be included in this category.”
So, what does this mean for visitors to the EPT Barcelona, one of the most popular stops on the live poker calendar?
As ever with poorly thought-out legislation, it isn’t one hundred percent clear. Obviously with the huge sums on offer during the festival, players need to know where they stand.
The EPT has apparently said that it will not be withholding any funds from the prize pools, leaving it up to the players to manage their own affairs.
Legendary member of the famed Hendon Mob, Barny Boatman, was scathing in his response to what was being done to the Spanish live poker scene.
“Ok, you’ll lose a chunk of money if you cash in Spain. But on the plus side: Congratulations, you’re now a highly skilled professional sportsperson, and can feel really good about yourself. Being designated a professional will make it harder to become one. Goodbye Spanish poker.”
All Poker Players to be taxed as professional athletes
From now on, all poker players will be taxed on their winnings in Spain, regardless of where they come from.
Players hailing from a nation that is a member of the European Union will be taxed at a discounted rate of 19%. Players from countries outside that area will be levied at 24%.
Players are now facing an uncomfortable truth that the game may not be profitable any longer in Spain, especially if the tax is payable immediately upon winning.
It would be something different, although still enough to kill all profit, if taxes could be paid at the end of the year and offset against accumulated losses.
Chess Grandmaster Paco Vallejo Pons Handed Tax bill for €500K
Spare a thought for Spanish chess grandmaster Paco Vallejo Pons who was issued a bill for half a million euros after a losing year! A now defunct law taxed all winning at 47% immediately.
He gave the online game a try back in 2011 and after losing a few thousand euros decided it wasn’t for him.
Fortunately, after a five-year legal battle, the Spaniard won his case and didn’t have to pay out, but he was still put through the mill and saw his health destroyed as a result.
The final issue that has yet to be clarified, is whether poker games can now take place outside of the usual venues if the new tax laws are adhered to.
It would be a positive move to see amateurs able to organise their own events, but many think it unlikely to be possible without some middleman involved.
This whole episode is being viewed as negative, but we should remember that gaining recognition as a sport is overwhelmingly positive, even if the Spanish government is only thinking about a cash grab.
Gambling often has a negative image and recognition as a sport in a first world country can help to grow the game around the world.
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