The Aviation Club de France (ACF) has been one of the most iconic gambling halls in France, if not all of Europe, over the past century.
But following a raid and closure five months ago, French authorities have now placed the club into judicial liquidation, likely ending the story of the famous club that has hosted some of Europe’s most prestigious poker tournaments.
The decision comes exactly five months after French Judicial Police raided the ACF after accusations ranging from money laundering to irregularities in employment laws. A number of people were taken into custody at the time, including several employees of the room.
“Police were there by 6 am, when there were about fifty people still inside the ACF rooms,” an ACF employee said to AFP. “Most of them were Chinese players, who also happen to be surveyed by the financial police.”
Now, five months later, local authorities have made the determination not to renew the club’s gaming license, thus ending a century of gambling activity at the location. That decision came despite efforts by fans of the club both in France and around the world making efforts to save the club and protect the jobs of the more than 200 employees who worked there.
The ACF was first founded as a gambling room in 1907, at the time as a private members-only club. By 1925, it had opened to the general public. It first added poker to its suite of offerings in 1995, quickly making it one of the hotbeds of poker activity in France. Since opening, the ACF had remained in its same location on the Avenue des Champs-Elysees for nearly 100 years.
“For the past 107 years, the Aviation Club de France has welcomed hundreds and hundreds of players and has always operated within the legal framework defined by the state,” management of the ACF said in an open letter to French President Francois Hollande.
“The death of this ‘old lady’ would lead to the creation of dozens of illegal and dangerous activities that would not bring anything to the State. Are you ready, Mr. President, to legitimate the birth of such a clandestine network?”
Unfortunately, that plea and those of professional poker players like Liv Boeree and Fabrice Soulier were not enough to convince officials to save the club. Unfortunately, say some French professionals, the closure of the Aviation Club combined with the cancellation of the Deauville stop on the European Poker Tour could combine to be a death blow to the French poker scene.
“Poker is dying, and we all look at it without doing anything,” said poker pro Philippe Ktorza. “Us, the players, have no power. An assembly of all the people involved in the French poker industry, event organizers, rooms, operators, press…they could have started a debate and they could have tried to save poker in France.”
The closure of the ACF is just the latest blow to the French poker community, which has been losing options rapidly in recent months. Along with the exit of EPT Deauville, the Cercle Haussmann was closed on January 15, while the Association Cercle Cadet was recently put in judicial liquidation as well.
That leaves the Cercle Clichy Montmartre as the only licensed poker operator in Paris, though its license is only valid until 2016, leaving the future of Parisian poker in question.