France to Award 30 Licenses for Online Gambling

02 June 2010

Today the government of France approved a new online gambling bill. The bill passed the French parliament by a narrow 299-233 vote. The French will grant only 30 licenses to operate online casinos and poker rooms within its borders. Though it is now official and France says that licenses will be granted in time for the 2010 World Cup, not everyone is excited about the French market.

Some are already criticizing the gambling legislation saying that it is discriminating against all non-governmental organizations and is in effect creating an industry that will be monopolized by the state. Others have pointed out that due to this alleged discrimination, the new bill is actually not in line with EU standard that says that all online gambling sites should be given a fair chance to compete on a level playing field.

There are others though that applaud this new online gambling bill as a huge step forward for the industry as a whole. They state that this will be a step in the right direction as far as taxing the industry, assuring fair betting practices and avoiding money laundering through use of the internet.

Within the online gambling industry the reaction to the new French market has also been split. Some have already applied for licenses such as Everest Poker, BetClic and PMU. 888 and Microgaming have also applied and Roger Raatgever, CEO of Microgaming, said,

“We are in a fantastic position to support any company looking to launch and operate a successful online poker room in France, with our market-leading poker platform and the value-added services provided by Spiral Solutions France. With the new regulation in place, France offers a fantastic environment to do what we do best; delivering the best platform of online games to our eGaming clients.”

Two of the biggest European gambling operators, Betfair and William Hill have yet to apply however and  Tim Phillips, director of European public affairs at Betfair said, “We are looking very hard at the French market and how we might operate within the new licensed regime. Though it’s not impossible for a newcomer to create a commercially viable business, most projections show it will be very difficult to do so, given the proposed restrictions imposed on license holders.”

William Hill released a statement saying, “In conjunction with the changes to the regulatory regime in France, William Hill Online is considering whether to apply for a license to offer permitted online gambling products to French residents.”

Both Betfair and William Hill have stopped accepting bets from French players as a result of not having a license to legally operate within France. So only time will tell who may get one of the 30 coveted licenses and how online gambling in France will play out amongst the gambling industry leading companies.

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