France’s gambling regulator ANJ has promised a renewed fight against illegal gambling as it unveiled its strategy for the next two years, but emphasised that a need to drive down excessive gambling “inspires all its actions”.
Announcing a strategic plan for 2024 through to the end of 2026, ANJ said it would be especially focused on reducing the “social damages” caused by gambling.
ANJ took over regulation of most French gambling in 2021. The regulator said the market had “boomed” during this period, with gambling becoming a mainstream consumer activity for people of all ages.
More than half of French people now gamble, the regulator said, and industry revenues topped €13bn in 2023.
However, it claims that 38 percent of the sector’s turnover is generated by problem gambling and 21 percent by what it calls excessive gambling.
“These figures, which are due to be updated shortly, illustrate the reality of a social problem, particularly for young people, with collateral damage in the gambler’s immediate environment,” said ANJ in a press release.
“Although gambling operators have made significant progress in this area over the past three years, problem gambling still plays too large a role in the gambling market,” it said.
ANJ president Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin added: “After three years in office, we now believe that the regulation of gambling must take a turn that involves the market gradually moving towards a less intensive model.
“This voluntary target to reduce the number of excessive gamblers and to strengthen the protection of minors will be monitored over a period of three years and adjusted in line with monitoring indicators and prevalence studies.
“It can only be achieved if all the players join forces alongside the regulator to move the goalposts: gambling operators, public authorities, institutions, associations, etc.”
Among the details of the regulator’s strategy document is a warning that fines could ramp up in the years ahead. ANJ said it will be monitoring compliance with “key player protection issues” and could issue sanctions if it finds failings.
However, it has also committed to more regular dialogue with licensed operators and has said it will intervene across the supply chain, including with payments companies, technology suppliers and platform providers, to tackle France’s black market.
France has an outright ban on online casino games, which fuels a fear that French players seeking casino gambling are being drawn to offshore operators.
For the first time in several years there is noticeable pressure from industry groups to open up the sector, and there have even been reports that national lottery operator FDJ has lobbied for exclusive access to the market.
FDJ is likely set to buy global gambling operator Kindred following a €2.6bn offer announced last week.
In a passage that could be read by online casino hopefuls as a signal that ANJ is not closed off to the idea of opening the French market, the regulator said in its press release it would “strengthen the economic dimension of regulation in order to gain a better understanding of market balances and provide solutions to the changes it is facing today”.
In the full strategy document, it also commits to “leading economic and societal reflection to develop a forward-looking vision of the gambling sector and the possible evolution of its boundaries and practices”.