Argentine Players Campaign To Classify Poker As A Sport

August 18, 2022
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​​​​​​​The Association of Sports Poker Players in Argentina is lobbying hard to have poker classified and regulated as a sport and not a game of chance.

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The Association of Sports Poker Players (AJPD) in Argentina is lobbying hard to have poker classified and regulated as a sport and not a game of chance.

Sebastián Costa, the president of the AJPD, has made it his mission to have poker recognised for what he believes it truly is: not only a game of skill but a sport.

In an interview with local site Sitio Andino, he explained that only prejudice keeps poker from being legally recognised as a sport. He claims that behind the scenes, most regulators and lawyers agree with him.

According to Tomás García Botta, a partner at law firm MF Estudios who specialises in regulatory and gaming matters, that is not necessarily the case.

“As I see this, it is an attempt to detach poker from gambling regulation and the regulatory competence of the gambling regulators,” he said.

“On paper it sounds great, but at the end of the day the final word will be on the provinces and the city of Buenos Aires, as it is they who have the constitutional competence to determine what is gambling and what is not.”

But Costa insists that the kind of poker played with cigars in a casino back room is not the “sports” poker that he is campaigning for.

"We must clearly differentiate it. It is a game of skill and mental ability, which is practised only among players, through tournaments and where the role of a casino dealer does not exist, since he does not compete. That is to say, it is not played against a casino."

Usually the arguments surrounding poker involve whether or not it qualifies as a game of skill, a battle that has played out over the years in courts around the world, including in Sweden, India and the Netherlands. Classifying it as a game of skill in certain countries, depending on the text of their laws, can subject it to different governance.

But legally classifying poker as a sport in Argentina would be a first, and would exempt it entirely from the gambling laws that 16 of the country’s 23 provinces currently have in place.

Costa insisted he is motivated by a desire to protect players. “The goal is to protect and defend the rights of players who are being violated in live tournaments and especially online, against tournament organisers, whether casinos or gaming operators, with or without a licence."

However, many of the most populous provinces in Argentina have legalised online gambling and it is subject to regulation. Any choice to participate in unregulated tournaments from those jurisdictions would be the choice of the player at their risk.

Meanwhile, this week the province of Buenos Aires has approved the renewal of licences for games of chance for its casinos and bingo halls, which expired during the pandemic.

New fixed charge categories have been introduced: Extraordinary Fixed Charge and the Fixed Charge Accessory payable by the halls to recoup losses accrued during the pandemic. Poker is, sadly for the AJPD, still included in this category.

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