Bertrand “ElkY”Â GrospellierÂ is one of many poker pros whose entire lives will be impacted when the new UK gambling laws come into effect on October 1. And players aren’t the only ones who will have some tough decisions to make; ahead of that date, the licensing process has already caused a number of online poker operators to fall by the wayside.
Following the UK Gambling Commission’s (UKGC) decision to impose new taxation and licensing laws on all virtual operators serving residents of the United Kingdom, Winamax is one of the French online operators that has decided to join the recent exodus.
Prior to the September 16 deadline, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) received 161 license applications, but Winamax wasn’t one of them. Although those with a white license were granted “continuation” licenses so that they could decide whether they wanted to remain active, the French company decided to relinquish its license altogether.
The main reason for the company’s exit is a lack of traffic. According to the new UKGC rules, any players accessing a .fr platform from the UK will make that company liable for the new 15 percent tax rate. Although a number of British and French grinders enjoyed Winamax.fr from the UK, the number was deemed too small to cover the new costs.
Joining Winamax on the sidelines of the British gambling economy is a list of smaller operators, including Cherry AB, SBOBET and Pinnacle Sports. Also taking steps to refocus their UK-facing platforms and become “casino-only” outfits were Mansion and 12Bet. Although both operators will remain active in the UK, they will now limit their offerings to casino games.
PokerStars.fr is also among the poker sites leaving the British Isles because of the UK’s new gambling laws. Confirmed during its recent announcement that it will be launching a new UK platform, the news came as a blow to a number of French players, including Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier.
The poker pro is one of a number of French grinders that relocated to London in order to avoid the whopping 75 percent income tax rates levied by the French government; however, he could now be faced with a dilemma. If he stays in the UK he won’t be able to play on PokerStars.fr, but if he returns home in order to maintain his sponsorship deal, he will be subject to a large tax bill. Of course, ElkY has been one of PokerStars biggest stars for a number of years and it’s unlikely he’ll be let go without a good reason, but his plight is just the tip of the iceberg for many French players.
Although the UK’s new gambling laws are set to come into force on October 1, the situation is far from settled. Aside from various operators leaving the UK, the Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Association (GBGA) is currently in court trying to fight the issue.
Arguing against the UKGC’s claim that the changes are for “consumer protection” reasons, the GBGA believes that the reason is actually to increase tax revenues and this contravenes European Union trade rules. The UK’s High Court agreed to hear the case on September 23 and 24, but the legal debate between the two organizations could rage on for many more months which means, for now, the likes of ElkY will have to make some tough choices.