The Czech Republic has played host to many poker tournaments so far, and it’s one of the top destinations for World Poker Tour (WPT) events in Europe. If anything, the poker market in the country has been growing.
Until a few years back, there was only PokerStars who reigned over the country’s poker market relatively unchallenged, but since 2018, partypoker has made another splash, going face-to-face with the hitherto unchallenged favorite.
So, where does this leave lawmakers on the subject of whether poker constitutes a form of a gamble or a game of skill in the Czech Republic?
Poker Is the Law in the Czech Republic
While the Czech Republic may seem a little conservative on the outside, the country has one of the more liberal gaming and gambling markets. So, regardless of poker’s true nature – and whether the Czech Republic considers it a game of skill – poker has a bright future there.
Back in the 1990s, the government passed the so-called Lotteries Act, offering some basic framework on how lottery-style games would be regulated. Legalizing other forms of gambling, though, such as online betting became legal only in 2009, but once again, the government didn’t put too strict regulations in place.
In 2014, however, the Czech Finance Minister at the time, Andrej Babiš, decided to ramp up the level of regulation and introduce a stricter regulatory framework and issue consumer protection practices. Now, Babiš was opposed to gambling on principle, but his legal work only sought to strike a balance between what was good for consumers and what was good for business.
He insisted on better control on activities such as slots and table games, but not poker, as the previous two were generally associated with a higher incidence of addiction and financial ruin. It’s worth noting that until that proposal became law, the Czech Republic didn’t have any form of legal poker.
PokerStars Arrives First in the Country
The bill introduced by Andrej Babiš in 2014 was finally signed and enforced on January 1, 2017, allowing gambling companies to return to the Czech Republic or establish a footprint in a legitimate capacity. The bill was signed into law by Miloš Zeman, president of the Czech Republic at the time.
Soon after passing the law into effect, PokerStars became the first online poker venue to obtain a license on January 28 that same year and launched online in the country. Speaking at the time, Guy Templer, chief operating officer of PokerStars had this to say:
“We are very proud to be the first online casino and poker operator to be awarded a license and support the newly regulated Czech market.”
Since 2017, poker in the Czech Republic has been gathering momentum, with the latest movie featuring a tie-up between GVC Holdings-owned partypoker and King’s Casino in Rozvadov. Even though King’s Casino has been a bit of a controversial topic, the brick-and-mortar venue has been one of the most important gaming destinations for poker players in Europe for the past few years.
With partypoker becoming the official online partner for the facility, its significance to the poker community on the continent and the Czech Republic has grown. Now, apart from these poker sites, others are accessible to Czech players.
However, they may not hold an official license, which is one of the conditions for operating a card room legally.
Poker Is a Game (of Skill)
With poker becoming more widely adopted among young players, who aspire to earn a bracelet from a major tournament and the accompanying share of the prize pool, most people in the Czech Republic now interpret the game as one of skill rather than one of chance. While poker does have elements of luck and probabilities in its core, a person can consistently deliver excellent results if he or she knows how the game works and what to expect.
There are many strategies, but also a raw skill, to playing poker, which is essential as it sets the game from pure gambling. The Czech Republic’s lawmakers have not always looked favorably on poker. Still, none has gone so far as to prohibit it, cognizant of its potential as a game that requires talent and mathematical skill to play, not to mention rigorous training.
Indeed, there have been financial implications to consider as well as poker plays a significant regional and national interest in the sense there is tax money involved.
Poker isn’t going to finance the country’s entire public purse, but it can contribute its fair share, build a community, and shape parts of the country as popular travel destinations.
Online poker has been going strong with partypoker and PokerStars, trying to tie up their entire European network between their separate franchises and offer players better and bigger incentives to play.
Personal Objections Doesn’t Meddle with Good Business
The Czech Republic has been able to achieve something that other countries have long struggled to. Lawmakers in the country have been cognizant of the immense potential of the activity, not blocking poker – both brick-and-mortar and online – on a whim, but rather embracing the activity and allowing players and the economy to benefit from it.
While some have sought to limit the reach of online gambling, the government has kept a cool head about the importance and popularity of poker. More importantly, thanks to the Czech Republic’s more liberal approach in general, the game of poker has been reaping some success and has allowed Europe to appear on the international poker map.
Indeed, the World Series of Poker continues to collect bigger crowds and naturally offers better prize pools. Nevertheless, many poker players agree that living in Europe is much better if you pursue the game professionally or even as a hobby. It’s more financially justifiable, too.
The distances are small and opportunities to play poker legally more than a few. The Czech Republic has had an essential part in this development and growth of the poker ecosystem in Europe.