Live Poker Club license
Earlier this month we published an article about Poker in Belgium. There we committed ourselves to do all it takes the next couple of weeks, months and years to create a better live poker scene in our little country. We even proposed an idea about a live poker club license. Let it be clear this is a collective initiative from Pokahnights, Circus Poker Club and Days of Poker. Nonetheless we invite every other stakeholder from the Belgian poker sector to support the proposition.
Live Poker sector in Belgium
In Belgium we have several live casino’s offering live poker events. In fact we talk about more or less 4 places where games are offered on a regular basis. Besides this we have more than 20 clubs in our country who represent the beating heart of the Belgian live poker sector. Casino’s aren’t affected by any limits and can offer games for any particular amount. Although clubs are around for more than 10 years now, we don’t have any legal regulations to fall back on concerning live club poker. The only thing we have is a policy of tolerance stated by the gaming commission back in 2014 – 2015. The maximum buy-in in clubs is € 20 per event and no ring games are allowed, only tournament play. We gladly refer to our article about poker in Belgium for more details concerning this policy of tolerance.
Below we try to leave this policy behind us and create something sustainable. We make a constructive proposition towards a regulated live poker sector. In this proposal we work around a model that is positioned right between poker as a folk game (the current club poker) and high-stakes poker (casino offer).
Case study – Pokahnights / Circus Poker Club
The biggest club in the country is located in Wilrijk (Antwerp). Since we opened more than 10.000 players have participated in at least 1 live event organized by Pokahnights. The club is running already for more than 10 years and starting 2014 they organise poker events from their poker room in Wilrijk. The impact of all this can be found in some numbers we logged during the last 3 years (2017-2019).
Numbers show that live poker doesn’t imply for any financial tragedy at all. The emphasis lays on the sportive & social aspect. On top, one can never suspect any addiction with less than 1 participation per month on average.
- Amount of played tournament – 2.619
- Average amount of players per tournament – 33
- Amount of unique players – 4.282
- Average amount of participations per player – 20
- Average amount of participations per player per month – less than 1
The case study runs from Jan. 2017 till Dec. 2019 or a total of 36 months. The numbers are generated by Kholdem. Kholdem is a software package that is internationally use to run and manage live poker rooms & events. The package is in use since January 2017 in Pokahroom Antwerp and Circus Poker Club.
WINNING PLAYERS – 908 of 4.282 or 21,20%
|36 MONTHS||AMOUNT||PER MONTH||WEIGHT|
|€ 0 till € 100||444||€ 1,19||48,80 %|
|€ 101 till € 250||233||€ 4,43||25,66 %|
|€ 251 till € 500||118||€ 9,73||13,00 %|
|€ 501 till € 1.000||71||€ 19,45||7,82 %|
|More than € 1.000||42||€ 66,64||4,62 %|
More than 95% of the winning players don’t win more than € 20 per month. Even with an amount 10 times this high we still couldn’t categorise it as a professional occupation. When a winning player isn’t able to win more than 20 euro in the club circuit, we are not surprised a lot of players choose to play another circuit. We don’t approve of this, but therefore feel the obligation to think about a live poker club licence.
LOSING PLAYERS – 3.297 of 4.282 or 77,00%
|36 MONTHS||AMOUNT||PER MONTH||WEIGHT|
|€ 0 till € 100||2.499||-€ 1,02||75,80 %|
|€ 101 till € 250||418||-€ 4,38||12,68 %|
|€ 251 till € 500||187||-€ 9,93||5,67 %|
|€ 501 till € 1.000||124||-€ 19,65||3,76 %|
|More than € 1.000||69||-€ 51,33||2,09 %|
More than 97% of the losing players don’t loose more than € 20 per month. Even with an amount 10 times this high we still wouldn’t see any financial catastrophe take place. A film fan going to the movies twice a week of an amateur wine love has to reserve a monthly budget higher than € 200. We do believe we constantly need to monitor the sector to avoid potential problems in any scenario. But pushing people towards a grey non-regulated area is not an option for us any longer.
BREAK-EVEN PLAYERS – 77 of 4.282 or 1,80%
Yes indeed, we also have 77 players that after 3 years of playing managed to win/loose exactly… 0 euro.
Challenges for the Live Poker Club license
In the past 15 years we’ve come a long way, from the very beginning of club and live poker in our country up an till today. Still we keep fighting against prejudices, misunderstanding and some problems. With a more regulated policy we want to build that bridge to the actual reality. Keeping live club poker anno 2020 just ‘tolerated’ is no longer a good idea, while we can do so much better.
Live Poker & Gambling
Some people still believe poker is a gambling game and you pretty much put at risk your social life together with your financial health. This is a complete misinterpretation of the game that in no way meets up with reality at all. After more than 10 year in the business our organisation can statistically prove the opposite and that poker is a game of skills.
Competition “gray” circuit
The € 20 from 7 years ago isn’t the same € 20 of today. Players want to play with realistic buy-ins. For now this isn’t supported in our live clubs today so we see a massive migration towards the gray circuits. Players visit underground poker rooms far away from any control or monitoring, and where complete randomness thrives beyond any decentness.
By default it is impossible to know how many underground rooms there are exactly in our country. But if we state there are at least 10 to 25 locations in the area of Antwerp alone – where gray games are offered – then this is in no way exaggerated.
This is a very unhealthy situation for club poker and poker in general because this lack of regulation might set in place the beginning of the end for poker as we know it. A shame for thousands of players who do want to play according terms and who might end up deceived. We don’t think it needs to come this far and we believe a live poker club license might just do the trick.
In our opinion it’s time for club licenses. We’ve been active in the circuit for over 10 years now and nobody has organised more poker events on club level than us. So this is our conclusion based on personal experiences and based on clear numbers within the current social context.
A specific Poker License for professionals
We believe that in addition to the existing A and B licenses, there is room for a specific Poker License that focuses entirely on live and online poker activities. All other games are reserved for the A and B licensees.
Paris as example
In the summer of 2019 no less than 5 clubs opened doors in Paris. Before they had the same problems and challenges as us, but they decided to tackle them once and for all: by offering the players a decent and regulated circuit. A circuit supported by the professional sector and creating a model platform for others to follow.
Terms of the license
Before introducing live poker club licenses we will need to talk about following parameters:
- How many clubs can go open?
- Which games can be played and how should they be offered?
- What buy-ins are allowed and what are the limits?
- Which control mechanism should be in place?
It’s not our call to decide how many clubs could open doors in Belgium. We see 5 clubs in Paris right now and for a big city as Paris this seems to be a correct figure. It’s less relevant for a local city to have 5 clubs. Some options are open during a testing periode we are suggesting:
- X per province
- Y per amount of habitants
- by city government’s decision
- Z per A+ and B+ license
To us it’s clear only poker games can be offered in these clubs: tournaments, ring games and poker table games. Clubs shouldn’t be able to offer any other type of games. When a player wants to play another kind of game, he or she is more than welcome to visit the existing gaming halls, casino’s or online providers. There’s simply a big fundamental difference between poker and all other games. This difference should be embedded in the policy of the poker clubs. Tournaments can be offered in self-deal format when still desired. All other poker games should be played in the presence of at least one club employee.
The buy-in is not the most important parameter to be discussed straight away. We believe it is much more important to discuss for example a weekly deposit limit. How much can a player spend in a poker club?
I believe that a weekly limit of € 500 which can be increased to € 1,000 if a certificate can be presented is sufficient for a club environment.
All agreements should be met at all times and should be monitored in the interest of all stake holders. No better way to do so than in cooperation with an online operator. We see a couple of advantages instantly:
Every online operator needs to check their players in the EPIS database. He or she needs to be 21 years old and not excluded before joining any games. Every online operator has these systems already in place so why not use them?
Cash management –
By managing everything online we can install a proper check in terms of limits and deposits.
On top it’s more safe for everyone involved to handle everything online. beter om alles online te laten verlopen. Whether it’s paying entry fees or cashing out profits, everything can be done online.
Within a regulated circuit it is normal and desirable to pay taxes. Right now a tax of 11% is mandatory. By running all live events through an online operator, we can make sure the correct amount of tax is paid.
Live control –
Clubs need to install a cross check between the physical player and the online account. Camera surveillance is highly recommended to avoid any kind of discussion.
Test phase for the Live Poker Club license
To come to a fundamental policy and to get every little letter written down correctly in legislation, it’s very important to install a first test phase. Pokahnights, Circus Poker Club and Days of Poker are more than willing to set up a proper test phase making sure the necessary results are booked when final decisions are made concerning these live poker club licenses.
We are suggesting to implement above mentioned model during a full testing period of 2 years with transparant and complete reporting towards all stakeholders: the gaming commission, city government, legal authorities, organisations involved in the protection of players, representatives from the broad poker sector and all players. We invite everyone to take actively part of this test phase in order to come up with a suitable and working model. This is how we would take matters in hand, but we live in a free country with lots of creativity and intelligence, so we applaud any other co-existing initiative. After 2 years we would be more than happy to lay down our results next to other test phase results to ensure there is more than enough information to make the right decisions.
This exercise has just one purpose and that’s to make sure we finally get to a regulated policy when it comes to live poker in Belgium. A policy supported on all levels and carried by online operators who wish to do so.
Practical approach & disclaimer
The next few weeks we will contact the city governments of Wilrijk and Antwerp to discuss this test phase. I also inform the gaming commission to explain the situation and to get some advise from them. Only green light of both will get us started to roll out the test phase.
Invitation for all live poker players and club sector
We invite all live poker players in our country and the entire club sector to support this project. However, this initiative is not intended to wipe out low-stakes poker, because quite the opposite is true. We are convinced a lot of clubs are doing great things when it comes to low stakes poker, the poker format we all know and play in our clubs and is categorised as folk game. This new live poker club license is only intended to fill up the gap between poker as a folk game and the high-stakes poker offered in casino’s.