French Online Casino Bill Would Freeze Out Foreign Competitors

May 26, 2023
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A member of France’s largest political party has submitted a legal proposal to open up the online casino game market that would give a significant head-start to the country's land-based casino sector.

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A member of France’s largest political party has submitted a legal proposal to open up the online casino game market that would give a significant head-start to the country's land-based casino sector.

To allow French companies to compete with global operators in the online casino space, it is proposed that a five-year moratorium on foreign operators be implemented, meaning the market would not fully open until January 1, 2030.

The proposal states that: “If the opening were to be total and immediate, it would disrupt our regulatory frameworks, weaken the national casino industry, as well as the economic balance of the municipalities where it is located, with potentially devastating consequences for employment in this sector."

Until the market moratorium ends, only land-based casinos already licensed in France would be able to apply for an online casino licence.

However, the proposal lacks some key details, such as when online casino licenses should come into effect or what specific games operators will be permitted to offer.

The reasoning behind the proposal claims that the current French legal framework for gambling remains “very restrictive” for online casinos despite the opening up of the online sports betting, horseracing and poker markets in 2010.

“It is clear that French players massively defy the law of May 2010 and go to offshore online casino sites, which do not protect them in any way, quite the contrary since there would be today, according to the National Gaming Authority (ANJ), between 1.4 and 2.2 million users of illegal online casinos in France,” the proposal states.

Attempts to block access to offshore sites are described as “reaching their limits, even if the authorities try to identify and block illegal sites using court orders”.

Maarten Haijer, secretary general of the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA), said "it doesn't make sense" for France to continue its prohibition of online casinos, as it is now one of the last two countries in the EU to do so.

"The current ban leaves one million of its citizens, who play online casinos on websites based outside France, unprotected and vulnerable to black market operators. Any move towards a regulatory framework is therefore positive and welcomed. However, its success would depend on how the market is organised and there would need to be a fair competition where all interested parties have equal opportunity to apply for licences," Haijer told VIXIO GamblingCompliance.

It is proposed that les sociétés de fourniture et de maintenance (SFM), an industrial equipment and supplies wholesaler that currently brokers deals for land-based casinos making equipment purchases in France, oversees the regulation of the new sector.

L'Annuaire des Entreprises, France’s business directory, lists SFM as having just three to five employees in 2020.

The Ministry of Interior is the current regulatory authority for casinos, while the Autorité Nationale des Jeux (ANJ) regulates licensed gambling and betting games, both online and at points of sale. The ANJ also oversees the responsible gambling policy of casinos.

Philippe Latombe, a member of Renaissance Deputies submitted the proposal on May 23 to the National Assembly.

Renaissance Deputies, also known as the La République En Marche group, is the largest party in France’s governing coalition and is the party of President Emmanuel Macron.

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