Tuesday June 26, 2012 : ARE SPANISH TAX CONCERNS KEEPING THE PROS AWAY FROM NEW POKER MARKET?
Confusion over tax implications discourages the pros from indulging in some Spanish poker action
Spain may just have unwittingly come up with a way to maximize recreational player involvement in online poker.
Confusion over Spanish tax obligations may be keeping many professional players away from the newly opened Spanish online poker tables, according to an article which appeared on the respected poker information website Pokerfuse this week.
Sacha Michaud, president of the Spanish gaming trade association Jdigital, opines in the article that “professionals and high-value customers” are staying away from Spanish sites due to income tax uncertainty and confusion following the opening up of the market just three weeks ago .
Michaud points to concerns over the national tax regime, which apparently requires Spanish players to pay income tax on winnings without deducting losses.
Although the authorities have shown little interest in enforcing the tax code on poker players in the past, the fact that online player data is being collected on the newly regulated websites and made available to the regulator is a sobering thought from a tax perspective, especially under an inequitable system that does not allow losses to be deducted.
Pokerstars poker room manager Steve Day told Pokerfuse that Spanish licensees are required to send regular information to their data vaults in Spain which can be accessed by the Spanish gaming regulator.
“The data sent to our data vault in Spain is not summarized to provide per player gambling winnings but this information could be calculated from the data provided," Day said. "We do not actively provide any information in respect to per player gambling winnings to the Spanish tax authorities.”
Day told Pokerfuse that where the Spanish authorities requested information about a specific player in connection with a tax audit or tax investigation they are undertaking in respect to that player, his company would be compelled to provide it.
Michaud told the poker information site that Spanish cash game traffic is low – total active cash players in Spain are about half the size of the French and Italian markets.
The Pokerstars.es dedicated site holds the biggest market share at around 70 percent, with 888Poker.es claiming all but 5 percent of the rest of the market.