Ari writes and reports about European gambling issues for Right2Bet, an organization dedicated to allowing EU citizens to be able to bet with whichever EU-licensed betting company they wish, regardless of in which member state that company is based.More articles by Ari Last
French 'liberalisation' set to become law in time for the World Cup
14 May 2010
By Ari Last
I can almost see the smile on your face from here. As reported a few weeks back, the long-awaited reform of the French online gambling regime is upon us, and will extend open, free and fair access to all EU-licensed operators to French citizens, affording them the protection, value and choice they so crave.
Though before you get to excited, let me inform you exactly as to what the French betting public have lying in store.
As we pointed out in a previous blog for the GPWA, this new law spells out horrendously bad news for the French consumer on a number of key issues.
Firstly, the liberalisation was supposed to open the market to EU betting operators based outside the country's borders, yet the contrary is indeed the reality thanks to the countless disincentives put in place before anyone even thinking about applying for a French licence.
One of the key elements of this new law is a tax on turnover, rather than profits, which is a model that makes operating profitably extremely difficult. It seems clear that the new regime will force legitimate EU operators to turn their back on France as a result of such measures.
The French themselves originally estimated 200 applications for licences under the new regime, itself a remarkably low figure given the 5,000 online gambling sites they themselves said were operating in France, as stated in the government-commissioned Durieux Report.
Though tellingly that 200 estimate has now been revised down to just 20. Of those 20, some will be in partnership with French-based operators and some will be there because they feel they have to be positioned well for any further reform. In the interim though they will be operating at a loss financially and as a result, will be forced to seek higher margins by offering French consumers poorer value.
Big names from across the betting industry have been quick to lament the so-called reform. Isabelle Parize, who runs Betclic, a company that has been very active in France in recent years, said: "It is the worst you can imagine. We will not make any money in France until the law changes [again]."
Of critical importance for consumers elsewhere in the EU, Parize also makes the point that if the authorities in Brussels allow this reform to stand it sets a dangerous precedent for the rest of the EU, as it will send a clear signal to other Member States that this sort of botched reform is permissible under current EU law, which it clearly is not.
It is obvious to us that the French authorities are doing their best to appear as if they are trying to comply with EU law, but in reality all they are doing is pandering to the state monopolies, who exercise an almost biblical level of influence in the Parisian corridors of power. The Pari-Mutual Urbain and Francaise des Jeux must be sitting in their ivory towers laughing all the way to the bank, quite literally.
The biggest problem here is that for French consumers to truly benefit from reform to the online betting regime, and the competitive market that should be the ultimate result, they need a large number of EU-based betting operators to break into the French market and challenge the current monopolies. Once again the consumer will lose out as this influx of competition clearly is not going to happen.
We are doing all we can to get the European Commission to act and protect the French, and potentially wider European, consumer from yet further prohibitive moves.
We have been fighting on the behalf of thousands of consumers around Europe over the last six months. If you've not already done so, please add your voice to that cause by signing the petition today at www.right2bet.net.