Wednesday, 18 November 2009

A false French bet

Following pressure from the European Union and private operators, France has proposed a new gambling law, presenting it as a historic proposition that will open up the French gambling market for the first time in history. 

The bill should put an end to the state monopoly of two operators, PMU and Française des Jeux. French officials claim the new law will meet European Union demands for liberalisation and will fully open up its market, which is worth an estimated five to six billion Euros a year.

The UK-based Remote Gambling Association (RGA) said in a statement that ‘the French bill will fail to achieve any of its stated objectives’. It is a safe bet to say the RGA is right. Under the new bill, operators need a licence and can only obtain one if they close down their accounts for six months. This basically means giving away your customers to the French monopolists or competitors. Even if such a drastic move is made, another clause forbids applicants to have a sister or daughter company in an offshore tax haven. Ladbrokes and William Hill’s move to Gibraltar still fresh in mind, which self-respecting online gambling business does not have one? It is unlikely anything will change. Only if the Senate removes these clauses and if France softens its approach, the market can truly open up.