April 14, 2008

France to open up by late '2009 or early 2010'

According to reports published in the French daily newspaper Aujourd’hui en France this week, “everything is ready” for France to set out its framework for online gaming and betting.

According to the paper, former MP Bruno Durieux handed in the results of a study he carried out on online gambling for the French finance inspectorate at the end of last week, and President Nicolas Sarkozy should approve it shortly.

The timeframe for “a new era in online gaming and betting” is thought to be towards the end of “2009 or early in 2010”, according to French budget minister Eric Woerth. Horse racing bets would only be allowed through tote betting (pari mutuel), to conform with the current monopoly operated by Pari Mutuel Urbain (PMU). Fixed-odds bookmaking on football or tennis would be allowed under strict guidelines.

France is also set to work out a new “system” for online gaming and betting in partnership with other EU states such as Belgium, Germany and Holland, rather than adopt existing models such as those in the UK or Italy. An initial steering committee will meet up at the end of April.

At a national level, operators will have to be licensed to offer their services in France and conform to the system, with strict guidelines relating to money laundering and player protection.

Eric Woerth told the newspaper that France was not acting under threat from the European Commission but to address the changes brought in by technological developments and the internet. He added that horse racing betting had to evolve, but he would not allow fixed-odds betting products to be offered on the sport.

For other sports such as football, fixed-odds bets would be offered, but Woerth added: “A sports bet is not betting on the colour of a tennis player’s jersey. The bet must be linked to the sporting performance, if not it can be the source of all kinds of dubious activity.” The French government would also expect to see a slice of betting revenues, he added.

On the gaming front, casino games and poker will be licensed, although they need to be studied by the relevant bodies, Woerth said. Slot machines however would not be allowed, as they are “the most addictive” type of casino games, the minister said.