Sportingbet has shelved its plan to launch in France due to continued uncertainty about market conditions in that soon-to-be regulated market.
The operator, which today announced first quarter net gaming revenue up 26%, last month announced its intention to launch in France when regulation allows.
Chief executive Andrew McIver said the plan to apply for a French licence had been postponed pending the outcome of French parliamentary debate to determine the shape of gaming regulation: “We are now not sure what we’re not sure what we’re going to do. The situation has changed so many times that we still can’t be sure what the best course for us to take is.
“I suspect that to offer an off-shore model into France could be seen as aggressive by the French authorities and it could end up as a case of warfare. And that could become difficult, as Petter Nylander found out in Holland.”
McIver was referring to the arrest of Unibet chief executive Petter Nylander’s arrest in the Netherlands under a French warrant in 2007.
Draft laws to regulate the French market have experienced major changes in recent months, such as the inclusion of an amendment to force operators to shut down the accounts of their French players when the bill regulating online gaming is voted through early next year.
The amendment poses a major threat for operators with a large market share in the country 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. It has been seen by some operators as a protectionist move allowing French monopolies Francais Des Jeux (FDJ) and Pari Mutuel Urbain (PMU) to boost their online customer bases at the expense rivals.
However McIver added that the French market accounts for only 3% of Sportingbet’s net gaming revenue, “so we could even benefit from a moratorium” [in the same way the French monopolies will].
Despite the challenges, several egaming companies have already announced their intention to launch in France, including Game Account, Playtech, mobile specialist Probability and Eurosport gaming operator SPS Betting.
Other operators have instead opted for business-to-business (B2B) ties, including Paddy Power, which signed a landmark deal with PMU this month, and Partygaming, which is seeking French B2B ties.