French poker is in turmoil after the online poker room Europoker.fr spirals into liquidation, leaving players in the dark about their bankrolls and bonuses, ARJEL President, Charles Coppolani, requests a meeting with players and then cancels it, and the Cercle Cadet Poker Club is raided, and closed, by the French National Judicial Police.
Times are tough for professional poker players residing in France.
The high taxation, and ring-fenced liquidity issues, are well documented, but last week saw two more high profile incidents sweep more dark clouds over the game.
At approx. 5.30am on Tuesday, Oct 14, a team from the French National Judicial Police Force raided the Cercle Cadet Poker Club in Paris, and 14 people were remanded in custody. Amongst those taken away were the clubs president Serge Kasparian, and several other members of the management team.
According to several sources in the French media, the raid was enacted after a year-long investigation uncovered alleged extortion by organized gangs, embezzlement, and money laundering activities.
The raid is a disaster for the French gambling community. It’s the second gambling club to be raided, and closed, in the past month, after the Aviation Club de Frawnce (ACF) was shut down on Sep 16th, after a similar raid by the French police. 11 people were arrested, and they included the club owner Marcel Francisci.
The ACF continues to amass cobwebs on the front doors, and this has prompted members of the ACF team, regular members of the famous gaming room, and local French celebrities, to head to social media to partake in a #bringbackacf photo campaign.
The closure of the Cercle Cadet Poker Club, and the ACF, means only the Cercle Clichy-Montmartre remains open for business in Paris.
The Cercle Cadet Poker Club has a troubled past. In 2007 – when it operated under the name The Concorde Club – French officials closed it down when it was exposed as a money laundering vehicle for Corsican mobsters.
In 2009, restaurateur, Serge Kasparian, re-opened the club under the new name, after undergoing very strict vetting procedures by the French authorities. The venue was due to host the PokerStars sponsored France Poker Series Nov 22-30, 2014. Considering the length of closure that the ACF has faced, it seems PokerStars may have to seriously rethink this one.
Europoker Fiasco Continues; ARJEL Angers Players
The Europoker fiasco continues after the President of ARJEL, Charles Coppolani, has completed a U-turn over his decision to meet with a delegation of French players to listen to their concerns over the future of online poker in France.
The meeting, which was scheduled for Oct 22nd, 2014, was requested after the ARJEL chief read an article on a French poker site entitled: “ARJEL and the imaginary world of Mr. Coppolani: Take Action Now!”
The article was written by a French poker player using the pseudonym ‘Bigbox’ and after receiving a request to meet with the prez, he used the ClubPoker forum to ask his fellow online grinders to put together a series of questions that could be thrown at Coppolani.
Top of the list was the worrying situation with Europoker.fr. The former French Ongame network skin, was forced to jump ship to the French iPoker network after Bwin.fr merged with partypoker.fr leaving the Ongame network with nothing but tumbleweed rolling down the cyber halls.
That migration never took place after Europoker filed for bankruptcy and the doors officially closed on Sep 26th, leaving the players completely in the dark about what was going to happen to their funds (players were, and still are, incapable of accessing their accounts).
According to PokerNewsReport, whilst the players funds are segregated from the sites other operational balances, this only accounts for their actual cash amounts, and excludes rake back, bonuses, and tournament tickets. It’s believed that these ancillary costs represent up to 40% of the players total cash balances, resulting in a lack of funds estimated to be in the region of €200,000.
Europoker’s parent company, EPMEDIA, faced court officials in Bobigny, on Oct 15th, and we have received an e-mail sent to Europoker’s players, stating that the court did not make a ruling, and instead will reconvene on Oct 23, 2014. The e-mail also stated that ARJEL would keep players updated on their website, and in the meantime they are to submit a registered letter to a trust company called Equitis Management, who will now take over the management of the financial dealings, in a similar way that the Garden City Group (GCG) handled the U.S. players Full Tilt Poker process.
A statement on the ClubPoker forum also indicated that ARJEL have cancelled their scheduled Oct 22, meeting with the players, and this has led to the players having to take group legal action in line with the Loi Hamon Act of March 17, 2014.