France’s Winamax Poker Tour to Switch to All-Online Format
Say goodbye to the original form of the Winamax Poker Tour (WiPT), the combination live-and-online poker tour that served as both a marketing tool for the prominent French online room and as a growth mechanism for the game itself. In response to an appellate court’s decision that the WiPT’s live feeder satellites are indeed illegal under France’s gambling laws (because Winamax is licensed only for online play) the company has announced that future editions of the WiPT will be online only.
Winamax’s WiPT has been offered in France since 2011, but change is on the way for the tour’s 2018-19 season. The site’s plans for the upcoming season had been unknown since May, when the appellate ruling made the old WiPT framework technically illegal.
According to Winamax’s veteran media representative, Benjo Dimeo, the WiPT will live on, albeit with a new coat of paint. Full details won’t be released until next week, but the online site still has plenty in store: “Within a week, we will reveal all the details of the Winamax Poker Tour 100% online. With 500,000 € of minimum [prize pool] to be shared, this new WiPT will resume the mechanics that made its success: a first round of qualification in Sit & Go (the “Starting Blocks”) available for free, followed by several successive stages played at local level, between players from the same geographical area. At the end of the road: a big and fat final with a buy-in of 250 €. …”
In an official Winamax blog post, DiMeo asserted that France’s live casinos for years have been trying to limit the prominent online operator’s market reach – if not to find a way to eliminate the online competitor entirely. As DiMeo put it, “What happened? Oh, three times nothing: a lawsuit! [Brought] by the unions of major French casinos, who believe that our free poker championship for fans represents… unfair competition for their activity.”
DiMeo added, “As incomprehensible as it may be, this decision, as you can imagine, brings a sudden stop to the WiPT in its current form. The renewal in 2018 with the formula that has made its success since 2011 would simply [make us] illegal! The new season which is announced does not involve, to our great regret, no live stage.”
The original complaint against Winamax was initiated in 2016 and formally lodged in 2017 by four corporate entities – the Association des Casinos Independants Francais (ACIF), the Syndicat des Casinos Modernes de France, the Syndicat Casinos de France, and SA Forges Thermal Company.
The two “Syndicat” entities are the union bodies, while the ACIF is the casino association, representing the interests of the 43 ACIF member casinos spread across the entirety of France. All four entities argued that they were “financially imperiled by Winamax’s poker-promoting actions.”
Not so, said DiMeo, whose blog on the matter represents about as official a statement on the May legal defeat that Winamax is likely to offer. With a little bit of venting, Benjo claimed that the opposite is true. “We will [stop arguing] how many enthusiasts – tens of thousands? – have been able, for seven years, to try live 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. We will ]stop mentioning] the many service providers and partners who have been working hand-in-hand for years with Winamax to organize the Tour and see, from one day to the next, a large part of their annual activity now stopped. We will be content to regret this decision that we consider definitely counterproductive for poker in France. The battles to defend the future of our favorite game are many: attacking a friendly competition that has allowed thousands of players to practice poker for the first time live was definitely not part of it.”