Do Australians see poker as a sport or a game?

In October 2015 bridge players in Britain found themselves on the wrong end of a High Court ruling which effectively denied the right to classify the card game as a sport. The English Bridge Union had wanted it reclassified as a sport for a number of reasons including the fact that it would have become eligible for government funding in a way that games are not. In addition, to be considered for inclusion in the Olympic Games, activities also have to be classified as sports.


In Australia, poker is in the same position as bridge with many players and organisations keen to get it classified as a sport, for many of the same reasons. Defining whether poker is a game or a sport involves a heated debate with compelling arguments and precedents on both sides and these boil down to three key points.


Sports involve physical activity, games do not


The widely accepted definition of a sport is that it involves physical activity and skill, follows a prescribed set of rules and is competitive in nature. In terms of all of these one could argue that poker qualifies – but perhaps the most problematic is the definition of physical activity. Yes, players need to pick up and turn over cards but they’re hardly likely to break sweat doing this. But then other accredited sports – snooker, darts and target shooting spring to mind – also involve minimal amounts of activity..


Sport involves professional players


While games are usually seen as mainly recreational activities that are played for fun, sports are regarded as being more “serious” with the potential for professionals to make a living from them. Many thousands of people all round the world earn enough from their poker winnings to live on so, in this respect, poker has this in common with other sports.


Poker’s already accepted as a sport by some countries


As long ago as 2010 poker was accepted as a mind sport by the International Mind Sports association and this has also been ratified by the hosts of the 2016 Olympics, Brazil. In China the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Sports has also sanctioned a number of tournaments


However in Australia poker remains resolutely defined as a game and a gambling activity. This brings certain laws into play under the country’s Interactive Gambling Act which states that “offering real-money online interactive gambling services to Australian players” is illegal and also bans advertising these services. If poker were to change its status to a sport a different set of rules could apply and could also affect the tax-status of players who make a living from playing online and in tournaments.


So the debate is set to rumble on with many arguments being given for and against. But one thing is for certain – it would be optimistic to imagine that it will be given the same status as cricket, rugby or Aussie Rules anytime soon.


Poker sport or Game





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