Going back a decade
The Canadian taxman is going after 2010 World Series of Poker Main Event Champion Jonathan Duhamel. According to a report from The Canadian, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is seeking $1.2 million (USD $907,000) in unpaid taxes from Duhamel, spanning 2010-2012.
To make matters worse for the champ, if the CRA wins its court case, Revenu Québec, might also decide to try to get the same amount from Duhamel.
Stories like this are not necessarily out of the ordinary. Tax agencies seek to get back taxes from people all the time, and there have been plenty of poker players who have been delinquent of their taxes. But this case is a bit different. Duhamel has paid taxes to the IRS in the United States, but games of chance are not taxable in Canada, so he never paid up in Canada.
Canada says he’s a businessman
But…The Canadian reports that a Canada resident who “carries on a business” is required to pay taxes and the CRA considers Duhamel to have operated a professional poker playing business. Hence, why the agency believes he owes taxes.
The CRA isn’t just coming up with this out of thin air. It has put together a case to prove that Duhamel operated a poker business from 2010-2012. In a nutshell, poker was and has been his job. His “sole occupation” since 2008 was as a poker player, he behaved like a “serious businessman” while playing, he “considers himself” a professional poker player, poker was his only source of income, and he devoted 40-50 hours per week playing.
Additionally, the CRA pointed to swaps with and investments in other tournament players, which earned him millions in profits in 2010. It looks like the agency considers this a sign of a businessman. It also pointed out that he signed with an agent in 2010 and earned sponsorship money from PokerStars.
The CRA also sees Duhamel’s study of poker strategy and mathematics as another indicator that he treated poker as a business.
Duhamel says he’s just lucky
But hold on, check this out. Duhamel’s defense is that poker is a game of chance, not skill. Seriously. For the first time in human history, a poker player is claiming that poker is luck-based. The 2010 WSOP Main Event winner, a guy who has won over $18 million in live tournaments, is trying to prove in court that he is just lucky.
Duhamel is saying that he has never had poker training and that he has never used a defined system. Better yet, though, he is specifically arguing that his winnings at the 2010 WSOP were “only the result of chance” and that poker is mostly based on luck.
Wow. In every poker legalization argument, the pro-poker side argues that poker is a game of skill. Duhamel is trying to get a court to believe that he is basically like me, but instead of me bubbling in a $5 online MTT, he was just a lucky donk who binked the Main Event and parlayed that into a professional poker career.