Saturday, June 15, 2024

Ruling that PokerStars is located in Isle of Man, not Malta

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In a lawsuit where the Arnhem-Leeuwarden Court of Appeal ruled that PokerStars is located in the Isle of Man and not Malta, the judge acted correctly. That is the opinion of the Supreme Court of the Netherlands, the highest judicial body in the country.

With that ruling standing, there is still no absolute clarity about the tax liability of poker players playing at In a different case, the Supreme Court ruled that a judge who ruled that PokerStars is based in Malta also had made no mistakes, according to

At stake is the duty for Dutch poker players to pay gambling tax on their winnings. If is considered to be based in Malta, Dutch poker players are free from paying the gambling tax.

Dutch gambling tax

Online poker players in the Netherlands are obligated to pay a 30.1% gambling tax on their net winnings on a per month basis with no option to deduct losing months. 

However, if an online casino is based within the European Union, Dutch players are indemnified from paying the gambling tax. After several court cases, the courts in the Netherlands ruled that the Dutch gambling tax is in opposition with the rule of free movement of services in the European Union.

As a result, Dutch poker players still file their results every month but pay zero taxes on their winnings from most online poker rooms. 888poker and partypoker were ruled to be based in Gibraltar and thus tax-free, though that changes if a no-deal Brexit takes place.

The location of PokerStars, though, was hot contested.

The Case of

The largest poker site in the world, PokerStars, has historically been based on the Isle of Man, an island between Ireland and England that is not part of the European Union.

In 2012, PokerStars moved its operation for European players from to and started offering its services from Malta under a Maltese license.

The Dutch tax authorities contested the assumption of poker players that PokerStars was from then on located within the European Union and that they would therefore no longer have to pay gambling tax on profits made on PokerStars. The tax authority argued that the owner of the platform was still based on the Isle of Man. The poker site was therefore located outside the European Union and players still had to pay gambling tax on their winnings.

Numerous poker players did not agree with that point of view and sued the Dutch tax authority. In two different cases, appeal upon appeal resulted in the supreme court having to make a ruling on the case.

The judgment of Hof Den Bosch

In September of this year, the first case involving the location of PokerStars was up before the Supreme Court. 

The highest legislature in the Netherlands ruled that there was nothing off about the decision of the Den Bosch court that had ruled that PokerStars was located in Malta. 

It was a win for the poker players seeking exemption from paying gambling tax, but it was by no means an end to the saga.

The judgment of Arnhem-Leeuwarden Court

The other case, one that was conducted at the Arnhem-Leeuwarden Court, was also considered by the Supreme Court after lawyer Pepijn Le Heux appealed against the ruling that was located on the Isle of Man.

The reasoning of the Court of Arnhem-Leeuwarden to consider PokerStars based in the Isle of Man and not Malta, was as followed:

“All PokerStars games are ultimately played on computers belonging to the Rational Group in the Isle of Man, which is controlled by the group’s headquarters. The Maltese EU branch of the Rational Group does not determine stakes, prices, terms of use, and the like.”

Arnhem-Leeuwarden Court

The Supreme Court has now ruled that the judgment of the Arnhem-Leeuwarden Court of Appeal remains as well. The supreme court did not provide any substantive response to the problem.

Uncertainty for Dutch poker players

With the latest ruling, the situation is still unclear for Dutch poker players. There are now two rulings from two different courts that are in direct opposition to each other. In both situations, the Supreme Court ruled that the rulings were made correctly and that Dutch law was correctly applied.

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