Winamax will make the French version of its Winamax Poker Tour an entirely online affair in the wake of a French appellate court ruling that the site’s live-venue freeroll qualifiers are in violation of French gaming licenses.
In the wake of a controversial French appellate court ruling that Winamax is not licensed to offer “live” poker tournaments in France, the prominent French online poker operator has announced the formal discontinuation of all live-venue Winamax Poker Tour (WiPT) events in the country.
In 2017, the Association des Casinos Independants Francais (ACIF) and three other parties filed suit against Winamax, alleging that live poker events hosted by Winamax violated French gambling law, because neither of the operator’s two gaming licenses allow for the hosting of any live event.
That Winamax does not charge entry for the events, but instead has used them for entertainment and recruitment purposes, was deemed irrelevant both in the initial ruling and the appellate court’s decision, the latter of which was handed down in May.
That led to the immediate cancellation of all planned WiPT events and short-term uncertainty over the tour’s future. Now, according to a corporate blog post by longtime Winamax media representative Benjo DiMeo, the WiPT will move to an all-online format, on the Winamax.fr site.
The well-known French operator will release full details on the new WiPT format on September 24, but released a broad-based overview for now. The online-only tour will still offer several stages based on geographic location, with €500,000 for an overall prize pool guarantee.
Months of planning canceled
Several years of WiPT groundwork and months of planning for the tour’s 2018-19 season are in the process of being restructured. DiMeo said: “It was months that we were hard at work on this new season. The schedule of live stages was complete. The rooms were reserved, the material gathered, our service providers and partners met. Preparations were well under way. We were almost there. And then, we had to stop everything.”
That Winamax had been planning its 2018-19 live-venue events was well understood by all, given that the WiPT had been offered annually since 2011. However, despite the ongoing plans for the future events, Winamax did float the legal argument that the case should be dismissed for irrelevancy, since the 2017-18 edition of the WiPT began in November and concluded in March, well before the May appellate-court ruling.
That court did not bother to rule on that point, instead siding with the argument made by the ACIF and other complainants that the series was illegal on its face.
Illegal competition also claimed
Among several aspects the French court had to consider were claims that the live Winamax freerolls were unfair competition to the land-based casino offerings. Besides the ACIF, which represents 43 independent casinos scattered throughout France, two union groups were also among the four complainants.
Those two groups, the Syndicat des Casinos Modernes de France and the Syndicat Casinos de France, argued that their membership was financially imperiled by Winamax’s poker-promoting actions.
DiMeo, in acknowledging Winamax’s retreat from the live offerings, still argued the opposite: “We will not [continue arguing] that the Winamax Poker Tour, with its game mechanics accessible to all, was not a competition to the poker games offered by the casinos, but instead a springboard, a way to discover for free the joys of live poker.
“We will not [continue arguing] how many enthusiasts – tens of thousands? – have been able, for seven years, to try poker via the Winamax Poker Tour, before making the leap to the paid tournaments offered throughout France by the same casinos that have attacked Winamax in court.”