Norwegian Politics, Poker | The bank gives a cold shoulder to the poker star: – Does not get paid tax
The poker seat does not receive any income or tax paid. “It is quite obvious that the banks have misunderstood the practice,” says the FRP representative.
Norway’s most famous poker pro, Felix Stephensen, is in trouble with the bank.
The poker player, who became number one at the World Cup in Las Vegas in 2014, was told by the bank last autumn that they would take a closer look at where he got his money from.
– I was open and honest about that, Stephensen tells Nettavisen, who has earned a living as a poker player – with his own company and his own accountant – for several years, without problems with the bank – until now.
– What was the final message from the bank?
– Since the money comes from gaming, I had to stop this, otherwise I could end the customer relationship.
– It’s not that strong. It is expected that you can take out a salary, so it is boring when it is stopped.
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– How can I use poker pros for the World Cup?
– It’s a pretty normal everyday life. I work 9-16 when the kid is in kindergarten and has a pretty A4 life.
Stephensen lives with his family in Norway, and says that he has not ranked moving out of the country after the message from the bank.
– I want to have the money in Norway, and not anywhere else. I taxed last year and we have not come to the tax this year, but now it looks like it is standing still. But I want to tax it.
Stephensen has not paid himself with his poker winnings in about a year, he says.
– The last time I withdrew money from a poker site to a Norwegian bank account is almost a year ago.
Stephensen says he does not want to tell the media which bank he has.
Stephensen is aware that he does not go out with cases in the media because people should feel sorry for him. This has become a problem for many, he says, and therefore it must be addressed.
– I also want the opportunity to play poker on the internet is fully legal for Norwegians, and thus taxable. Therefore, you can not access many problems for both hobby and professional players. I therefore want to create some awareness around and unfortunate situation that can be used over many who have large parts of their lives to a recognized mind sport.
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Now the money is standing still online, he says.
– The money stands still on poker sites, and the bank said that if I withdraw something more, they end the customer relationship. I am dependent on having a bank account associated with a company, even if it is standing still.
It is legal to gamble on foreign gaming sites, but illegal for banks to make payments to and from these sites.
To get around this, it is common for the money to go through legal, digital wallets that are not linked to the gaming sites.
Lives in «poker exile»
The online newspaper has been in contact with another, less profiled Norwegian poker professional, who tells a similar story.
The poker player does not want to be named. It started with him receiving a letter from his Norwegian bank with reference to the Money Laundering Act.
– I contacted my lawyer and submitted all the documentation they requested. It took months before I got an answer, even after repeated inquiries to them. It ended up that I suddenly had several accounts closed. Current accounts, corporate account, savings account, and so on. They shut it down, and then it was thank you and goodbye.
– I talked to the Norwegian Lotteries Authority about how this can be solved in an honest and proper way. She can move abroad or go and take the money home in a suitcase, so I can not be very welcome, he says.
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Now he is in “poker exile” abroad, where he has to win back money at physical casinos, which is a type of profit the bank allows.
He explains this as completely incomprehensible, and believes it may work against its purpose, since it is allegedly easier to conduct money laundering physically than online.
– I am not allowed to withdraw money from third parties or online casinos, but if I win abroad, then I can transfer it to the bank account.
If you are a criminal, then you can bring money for physical casino, he explains. There you can exchange them for chips, and then win them back in pure money.
– It is the easiest way to launder. But it is not possible to play at an online casino. There you have transaction stories where you can confirm where the money comes from, he says.
– Harasses law-abiding citizens
Frps Himanshu Gulati believes examples from the poker world are and signs of a new trend from the banks.
– I have confronted the government with brand new examples of banks threatening to evict customers on the basis of gambling, for which there is no legal basis. It is obvious that some bankers have misunderstood the practice.
– We have seen a development where the bank harasses law-abiding citizens to do something that is legal, namely to play poker on the internet. I have a clear connection between the banks’ practice and political signals from the government and the Norwegian Lotteries Authority.
– what signals?
– Decision against legal use of foreign e-wallets, unwillingness to solve misconduct at banks and secrecy of protocols after meeting with the financial industry are just some of what we have seen in the picture’s attempts to limit Norwegians’ legal internet games in order to have a state gaming monopoly. And now I want to register for censoring Norwegians’ internet access, so that gaming sites that it is legal for Norwegians to play on are blocked from the internet, he says.
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Gulati believes the banks are threatening eviction without having a legal basis for it.
– It is completely legal for Norwegians to play on foreign gaming sites, or transfer money to them. But Norwegian banks are today obliged to stop transactions that go through them. They can also evict customers due to money laundering, but we see that they can evict them due to gambling, and that is not correct according to the law.
– I want an end to the harassment of legal Norwegians who play poker online. I react to the fact that the Norwegian Lotteries Authority and some banks, with what seems to be the government’s blessing, continue to threaten or actually expel Norwegians from the digital community where they have an account, payment card and bank ID, he concludes.
May be law
According to a written answer from Minister of Justice Monica Mæland to Gulati on 1 July, there is no law requiring Norwegian banks to terminate the customer relationship because the customer uses and payment card or an account from the bank for gambling without permission in Norway.
But in an e-mail to Nettavisen, Minister of Culture Abid Raja (V) writes that there may be situations where there is objective reason to terminate and customer relations due to this.
«Norwegian banks are professional players who have good knowledge of the content of the payment service ban and what it entails. I point out that Finanstilsynet has stated that, after a specific assessment, it may contain objective grounds under the Financial Contracts Act for rejecting and terminating the customer relationship with players who try to use the bank’s services to participate in foreign games.
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Raja points out that players take a risk when the player plays on sites without permission in Norway.
«The ban on payment intermediation means that Norwegian payment institutions are obliged to stop transactions if it is known that this is the brokerage of deposits or payments to gambling that is not licensed in Norway. When a banker does his job, Gulati is wrong to call it harassment.
“Then it is the case that it is not forbidden for Norwegians to play these games, partly because it has not been seen as appropriate to criminalize people who may have gambling problems. Like many players who participate in gambling without permission in Norway, they do so at their own risk and could experience problems with the transfer of deposits or winnings. By trying to use the bank’s services to participate in foreign gambling, players will expose the bank to a risk of violating the regulations.
Nor has he made any liberalisations on the gaming front in the Solberg government.
-Then I would also like to add the government since 2014 has opened up for the poker NM and poker games in private homes, and in the latter setting we also have larger participants over the age of 18 to 20 people.
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Responsible for the banks
Jan Erik Fåne, Communications Director at Finans Norge, the banks’ interest organization, writes in an e-mail to Nettavisen that even though it is legal for the individual to gamble on foreign sites, there may be reason to terminate certain customer relationships after “a specific assessment” according to the Financial Contracts Act.
«The financial industry is loyal to the rules that apply at all times. As is well known, the exclusive rights model is politically determined, and I am led by the protection of this model, which is fixed and prohibited from payment intermediation. The banking industry must consequently comply with the ban on payment services as well as orders from the Norwegian Lotteries Authority and Finanstilsynet. The banking industry does not disagree that it is legal for the individual player to gamble, but providers of gambling that do not have a Norwegian license are not allowed to offer such gambling in Norway and prior to any payment services in Norway are not allowed to arrange deposits to and payout from such gambling. Finanstilsynet has also stated that after a specific assessment, there may be objective grounds under the Financial Contracts Act to reject and terminate the customer relationship with players who try to use the bank’s services to participate in foreign games. Finans Norge’s role is not to overrule assessments made by the individual bank in a specific case, “he writes.