New tariffs pulling a wild card on Ottawa's gamers

Retaliatory tariffs imposed on the United States are now in full effect, and one small item included on the list is causing some concern in Ottawa's gaming community — playing cards.

A tariff on playing cards includes popular trading card games such as Magic the Gathering

Dave Tellier, owner of Wizard's Tower, is concerned that new tariffs on playing cards could affect his business. (Submitted by Dave Tellier)

Retaliatory tariffs imposed on the United States are now in full effect, and one item on the list is causing concern in Ottawa's gaming community — playing cards.

The tariff on playing cards — which came into force July 1 — applies a 10 per cent charge on a standard deck of cards, but trading cards like Magic the Gathering, Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh cards are also hit.

"Our prices may be 10 per cent higher, but we're not making 10 per cent more, and then if our sales drop, obviously that's a concern," said Dave Tellier, owner of Wizard's Tower.

He primarily sells Magic cards, and puts on regular events. Tellier said they haven't increased prices yet, but customers are aware it's coming. 

"We kind of stockpiled the new set a bit — more so than usual because we know ... the tariffs are going to hit us," he said. "Once that runs out, the 10 per cent — we will see the increase immediately."

Wizard's Tower has been selling trading cards in Ottawa since it opened in 1997. (Submitted by Dave Tellier)

Wizard's Tower isn't alone.

Hans-Lee Tan, owner of GameBreakers Sports Cards said trading card enthusiasts are avid fans, but this could up prices for more than just cards.

"It means that the cost of every event they go into is going to also increase by the same proportion," he said. "I do anticipate that it will deter some people."

No other supply chain

Regular playing cards, which do fall under the new tariff, could cause casinos to rethink where they are buying the large number of decks they use. 

In Quebec, decks used in games where players handle the cards only have a lifespan of a few hours, according to Renaud Dugas of Loto-Québec.

The crown corporation oversees provincial casinos, including Gatineau's Casino Lac-Leamy.

In Quebec, decks used in games where players handle the cards have a short lifespan. (The Associated Press)

Dugas said that they are currently calling for bids on a playing card contract.

"The contract has not yet been awarded. The impact of tariffs could depend on the firm selected, as the origin of the cards vary from supplier to suppliers," Dugas said in an email.

Unfortunately for Ottawa stores, they don't have the luxury of choice because the trading cards are intellectual property.

"There's no other manufacturer for their games, each manufacturer has exclusive rights to produce their own game," Tan said.

Magic the Gathering cards are owned by Wizards of the Coast. They have exclusive rights to produce the popular game. (The Associated Press)

Wizards of the Coast, the company that make Magic cards, doesn't seem too concerned about the new tariffs, seeing it more as problem for stores importing their product, Tellier said.

"They only impact they're ever going to see is if their sales decrease."

Experts believe the tariffs are aimed at Republican leadership. The United States Playing Card Company — which manufactures card decks for popular brands Big Bicycle and Bee — is headquartered in Kentucky, the state that Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell represents.

Wizards of the Coast on the other hand is headquartered in Washington State, which is largely considered Democrat territory.

Despite the extra cost his store is facing, Tellier supports the government's retaliation.

"This is probably the only action the government can take," he said.

"If we give into [the U.S. government's] demands they're just going to ask for more."