Europe lost one of its most iconic and exclusive gambling rooms on Thursday, as French authorities decided to put the world-famous Aviation Club de France (ACF) into judicial liquidation.
Exactly five months after the French Judicial Police raided and closed the room located in the iconic Avenue des Champs-Élysées, the administration of Paris' most exclusive gambling room announced that local authorities have chosen not to renew the club’s licence and hence to bring to an end a story that began over 100 years ago.
Since the first day of the club's closure, a great number of French and international personalities campaigned in favor of the reopening of the club, with the hope that the Grand Instance Court in Paris would allow poker to get back on what is considered to be the world's most beautiful avenue and, at the same time, help the ACF's 213 employees to keep their jobs.
During the past months, stars of the game such as Team PokerStars Pro Liv Boeree, World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet winner Fabrice Soulier, World Poker Tour champion Bruno Lopes, and icons of the game like Antoine Saout and Bruno Fitoussi have all spoken in favor of the ACF and joined the "#bringbackACF" campaign with the hope that this could help the world to get the ACF back.
"For the past 107 years, the Aviation Club de France has welcomed hundreds and hundreds of players and has always operated within the legal framework defined by the state," the management of the club told PokerNews in an open letter sent to France’s President François Hollande.
"For the past 107 years, at the Aviation Club the France people have amused themselves and have even created businesses that have generated revenues for the State. The death of this "old lady" would lead to the creation of dozens of illegal and dangerous activities that would not bring anything to the State. Are you ready, Mr. President, to legitimate the birth of such a clandestine network?" the club continued.
Yet, despite the club's concerns, the support from the international poker community, and the Jury Award the ACF won at the 2014 France Poker Awards held in Deauville earlier this month, the number 104 of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées will no longer be home to some of the amazing poker games it held during its 100 years of history.
Another Terrible Hit for France's Poker Community
According to French poker veteran and former PMU pro Philippe Ktorza, the definitive closure of the ACF marks the "death of poker in France.
With the court’s decision coming only a few days after PokerStars announced that Deauville will no longer be included in the European Poker Tour (EPT) schedule, Ktorza said to be afraid that the national poker community will not find the necessary strength to react and help the game to survive in the country.
"Poker is dying, and we all look at it without doing anything," Ktorza said. According to the player, the crisis that the industry suffers is due to the inaction of all the actors that could have done something to save the game in France, but preferred not to engage in any dispute with the country's authorities.
"Us, the players, have no power," Ktorza continued. "An assembly of all the people involved in the French poker industry, event organizers, rooms, operators, press — they could have started a debate and they could have tried to save poker in France."
As Matthieu Sustrac pointed out on PokerNews France, the closure of the ACF is only the last one of a number of episodes that are not contributing to threaten the survival of the game in Paris.
After the closure of the Cercle Haussmann, on January 15, another popular poker club in the French capital, the Association Cercle Cadet, was put in judicial liquidation by the country's authorities.
At the moment, the only choice for poker players in Paris is the Cercle Clichy Montmartre, a club that Team PKR pro Patty Beaumier told PokerNews "operates with a license that is valid only until 2016."