October 12, 2009

Bill forcing operators to re-register players passes France's National Assembly

An amendment to force operators to shut down the accounts of their French players when the bill regulating online gaming in France is voted through early next year has been passed by France's National Assembly.

The development is a severe blow for operators with a large market share in France such as Betclick, Bwin and Unibet, who will only be able to open new French player accounts once they are licensed five to six months later in May or June 2010 if the bill is passed by the Senate, France’s other legislative chamber.

However the two French monopolies, Française des Jeux (FDJ) and Pari Mutuel Urbain (PMU), will not be subject to the amendment, and will be allowed to continue to accept new accounts during that time.

The amendment to the egaming law was proposed earlier this week, and was passed yesterday night by France’s National Assembly, which is currently debating the wider draft bill regulating online gaming.

The regulation is expected to become law by January 2010.

The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA), the trade group that represents European operators including Bwin, Expekt, PartyGaming and Unibet and that hit out at the draft laws earlier this week, said that the measure was designed to protect the French monopolies.

EGBA secretary general Sigrid Ligné: “The measure is clearly anti-competitive and can be added to other similar elements of the regulation. The Senate still has to debate the text but if the amendment is confirmed, it will only serve to highlight the real intention behind the draft regulation, which is to prevent EU-licensed operators from being profitable in France and to reinforce the position of the historic operators there.”

The impact of the measure on private operators would be compounded if, as some industry sources expect, FDJ and PMU were to launch new online sports betting and poker solutions in the first half of next year, in an effort to build up their player base while non-monopoly competitors are unable to operate in the French market.

The French government’s plans to hand out licences by June 2010 are timed to coincide with the football World Cup in South Africa, which begins that month.

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