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Gaming Report: Spanish Tax Authorities Target Poker Winnings, China Threatens Action Against Illegal Lottery Operators & More

Hossein Ensan and China Threatens Action Against Illegal Lottery
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  • PG News August 22, 2018
  • 6 Mins Read

In this edition of our PokerGuru Gaming Report, we update your with important developments in the European and Asian gaming circuit.

Starting with Europe, we highlight the recent tax summon by Spanish tax authorities to German pro Hossein Ensan for his 2014 winnings for which Ensan claims he already paid taxes to German authorities. Many other players have reportedly been reached out for tax payments by the authorities.

The spotlight then moves closer home in Asia where a joint communiqué has been issued by 12 Chinese ministries and commissions resolving and vowing to crackdown the illegal online lottery and use of Internet to sell unauthorized lottery tickets in China.

Next, we learn that the live streaming video platform Twitch will be introducing ads in its Prime streaming content in an attempt to push members to opt for the Turbo option.

We conclude with the possibility of Macau casinos registering an increased Gross Gaming Revenue (GGR) for the month of August.

Hossein Ensan & Other Poker Players Face Tax Summons For ‘Old Winnings’

Right as the European Poker Tour (EPT) Barcelona hits Spain’s second biggest city, news of a local player facing action by Spanish tax authorities is sending ripples of apprehension in the European poker fraternity.

German poker pro Hossein Ensan who is an EPT regular and scored big at the 2014 EPT Barcelonahas revealed that he’s been informed by Spanish tax authorities that he owes them a hefty sum for his cashes in 2014.

Hossein Ensan
Hossein Ensan

Back then, while Ensan was playing small stakes, he finished third in the EPT Barcelona Main Event final table after reaching a three-way deal with Andre Lettau who eventually won and Sam Phillips who finished runner up. While Ensan claims he settled up on taxes with local German offices, Spanish tax authorities claim that Ensan still owes them €235,000 plus interest and legal fees.

The news of Spanish Tax authorities training their guns on Ensan has evoked a shocked response from the poker circuit.

Patrick Leonard took to Twitter saying that Spain going after old poker winnings was “scary.” He said that he’d heard from French, Danish and Italian players who have been contacted with tax demands as well.

The Spanish tax code is among the strictest in Europe and only recently this year, Chess Grandmaster Franciso Vallejo Pons stated that he had “been crushed by tax authorities” over €1 Million in online ‘winnings’. Vallejo claimed he had never won anything at all, and while he cashed the quoted amount but didn’t make a profit since he eventually lost all the money he’d deposited.

While Ensan now plans to fight the request legally, other German players have also reportedly received similar letters from the Spanish government.

China Threatens Action Against Illegal Lottery Operators & Hosting Networks

A day after Apple Inc. confirmed that it had purged thousands of gambling and lottery apps from its China-facing App store, the government in China has issued a public warning that online lottery sales are presently strictly illegal in the country and that unauthorized online sales in online games will be taken to task.

China Threatens Action Against Illegal Lottery
China Threatens Action Against Illegal Lottery

Issuing a joint communiqué for the same on Tuesday, 12 Chinese ministries and commissions that include the Ministry of Finance that oversee lottery operations, People’s Bank of China and the Ministry of Public Security, resolutely prohibited the unauthorized use of the Internet to sell lottery tickets.

They vowed to “seriously investigate and deal with corporate or personal illegal and illegal online sales.”

As part of the plan, China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism will come up with a ‘three-dimensional remedial action’ for checking the unauthorized use of online sales in online games.

Banking officials will step in by monitoring the provision of payment settlement services to unauthorized lottery operations. Telecom operators will have to “clean up the illegal information on the Internet” regarding gambling activity and illegal lottery.

Online lottery sales are banned in China since March 2015. This year there was a remarkable surge in the unauthorized sports lottery pools in China’s walled-off Internet, including social media platforms like QQ messaging service, primarily due to the FIFA World Cup.

Apple was quick to purge gambling and lottery apps from its App Store in China after facing criticism from China’s state broadcaster CCTV. With the country’s rapidly growing online user base, many international tech firms are eyeing China’s online market and are unlikely to make any moves to offend the Chinese government.

Ads on Twitch Prime Hamper Poker Content

It seems to be a gloomy day for the users of Twitch Prime since the company has decided to withdraw its ad-free perk in a pitch to convert users to the $8.99 per month Twitch Turbo option.

Twitch Prime
Twitch Prime

Twitch is one of the most popular platforms for poker content, enabling the likes of Jason Somerville, Parker Talbot, Lex Veldhuis to transitions their poker careers to broadcasting ones.

On Tuesday, Twitch advised customers via a blog post, that existing Prime subscribers will lose the universal ad-free benefit after October 15, annual subscribers retain the rights until their subscription ends, and new subscribers will no longer receive the bonus after September 14.

Even though the company has a turnover of $1.5-$2 billion per quarter, with its owner Jeff Bezos worth an estimated $112 billion, finances was surely not the reason for this move. According to the blog post, the move was made to better the Twitch ecosystem stating, ‘an important source of support for the creators who make Twitch possible.’

Monthly Prime membership fees were increased by 18% in January to $12.99 per month and in April the annual plan went up to $119 from $99. But Twitch Prime still had 100 million paying subscribers. This latest announcement may lead to some serious reduction from its existing subscriber pool.

Macau Casinos Expected to See Rise in Gaming Revenue in August

August may turn out to be a good month for Macau casinos in terms of revenue. An expected increase in the city’s Gross Gaming Revenue (GGR) to between $3.22 and $3.27 Billion has been reported by two brokerages, which is 15-17% more than what the casinos reported in August last year.

Macau Casinos
Macau Casinos

Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd expects the GGR to rise between $3.24 and $3.27 Billion for the month, which amounts to an increase of 16-17% year-on-year. For the week ending August 19, the company said that Macau’s GGR averaged out to a little more than $104 Million, in line with what it had previously predicted.

The Japanese brokerage firm Nomura forecasted a slightly lower GGR, but still expected an improvement over the previous year’s revenues. Nomura analysts said that the GGR would be right at $3.22 Billion. It notes that the GGR growth for July and August should be comparable to the trailing six-year median, which was around 3%.

These predictions were based on the fact that the GGR at Macau’s casinos has been steadily increasing over the past several months. July reported 10.3% higher numbers than June, while June’s numbers were 12.6% better than May.

The Union Gaming Securities Asia Ltd. noted that the numbers in July were high even with a reduced day and the FIFA World Cup. “We view this result favorably as the month faced three headwinds. The calendar was unfavorable with one fewer Sunday; July had the toughest comp of the year… and while we believe it was a small impact, the more interesting second half of the World Cup played out during the first two weeks of July.”

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