June 08, 2010

French online рoker gets dealt bad hand in France

A slight hitch has come for those operators looking to provide online poker sites in France: namely, a slight delay in the issuance of licenses to June 28th. Licenses for foreign providers of horse race wagering and sports betting are expected to be released on June 11th – just hours before the 2010 World Cup kicks off.

While the draft law regarding changes to French gambling laws to allow foreign operators the legality to accept French online gamers at horse betting, sportsbook and online casino websites was approved by the French Parliament on May 13, the government of Malta had subsequently filed a complaint with European authorities over certain legal provisions regarding Internet poker in the law.

The Maltese government cited possible violation of the “freedom of goods and services” so critical to the European Commission in cases of government regulation of Internet gambling websites. A spokesperson for the French Regulatory Authority on Online Gambling (ARJEL) stated that the complaint was simply a formality, “a problem of European procedure” and that licenses for interested parties would be issued on June 11 as planned.

A maximum of 30 licenses may be issued under provisions of the new law and 20 gaming companies have applied, including names like Bwin, BetClic and Microgaming, all of which have applied for poker in addition to other licensing.

Some U.K.-based bookmakers such as William Hill and Betfair made announcements that they would be leaving the French market due to the unfairness of the new law. Betfair officially labeled the French regulations as “protectionist” and “not adequately (opening) the former monopoly's market to true competition from other operators.”

The online gambling law passed French Parliament with over 57% of the vote. At that time, issuance of licenses was targeted for some point before the World Cup – a goal the government will just barely make now, at least for sportsbook websites.

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