A warning to all UK poker players visiting Spain over the winter months has been issued on the Costa del Sol by the Junta de Andalucía (a regional government body like the Greater London Council – only more stupid).
After busting two poker clubs in the Calahonda area, it seems that the only places that poker players are now allowed to congregate are the casinos at San Roque (Sotogrande), Torrequebrada (Benalmadena) and Marbella.
Despite Spain having the most numerous and valuable lotteries in Europe, a very active “quinella” (football pools) and one of the largest greyhound racing stadiums in the world (in Barcelona), gambling is actually illegal outside of state licensed premises. The cost of the licences and taxes on gambling activities are so excessive that only the largest establishments can afford to host poker games (which are regarded as gambling in Spain – the same as the States) and the casinos have to deduct high levels of rake and charge high tournament fees to justify their costs.
Effectively, all social games in bars and private clubs have been brought to a standstill, and whereas the three Costa del Sol casinos still offer the chance to play both tournament and ring game Texas Hold´em poker, they are poorly attended. This is not only due to the high buy-ins that are charged for getting involved in a game, but also because walking into one of these establishments for the social player can be pretty intimidating. Fortunately, no players were arrested during these raids. The police solely confiscated all the poker equipment (including ten quality poker tables!) and the organisers of the “illegal” games can expect fines of up to €60.000 (about £50.500 in real money).
David Dancey – a poker-playing resident of Marbella – was quoted as saying that “The dilemma is that if you don’t have beginner and feeder clubs to introduce and supply new players for the Casino, numbers will drop and so it becomes ultimately unprofitable. There is an absolute need to cater for low cost recreational poker.”
Whereas it makes sense to properly regulate and draw taxes from live poker games, by applying ridiculous fascist attitudes that should have died with General Franco, the Spanish regional government are just going to drive more poker games underground and forfeit an income which – God knows – they need right now. The Spanish themselves have a word for it – “loco” (crazy).