New gambling laws in France
Online gambling bill ratified
The bill on the opening to competition of gambling and gambling on the Internet (online games) has been finally adopted on April 7th 2010 by the members of the French National Assembly, revoking the centuries old gambling monopoly.
As a reminder, until now it was prohibited in France from offering gambling games and games of chance on the Web. Only members of the old monopoly including Française des Jeux, PMU (Pari mutual urbain) and the French casinos were allowed to offer gambling games.
This is no longer the case with the French deputies vote to end this monopoly by legalizing sports & horse racing betting, and online gambling like online poker. This bill was adopted by 299 votes to 223 against, with a significant majority.
This bill opening competition for online gambling (sports betting, horse racing, online poker) had already been voted by the National Assembly and Senate respectively on first reading October 13, 2009 and February 24, 2010. The text was definitively adopted this time with the same terms as in the first reading.
The end of a monopoly
The French government had decided to pass this bill before June 11th 2010, date corresponding to the Soccer World Cup held in South Africa where large sports bets are expected to be wagered.
The French government still has to get approval from the European Commission and then from the Conseil d'Etat (Council of State), but a priori there should be no obstacle for full ratification of the new law.
The government's goal is to propose as soon as possible a new framework for effectively regulating online gambling, in order to stop letting billions of euros going abroad and evading tax.
More specifically, in order to enforce the new law, a "Autorité de Régulation des Jeux En Ligne" (Regulatory Authority for Online Games) was created, responsible for granting licenses to the operators who request them. These licenses valid for 5 years impose specific rules to the operators. For the operators who offer online gambling in France without an official license, the penalties were mad stiffer, up to 3 years in prison and 45,000 euros in fine.
It remains to be seen how efficient this new regulation will be. It is extremely difficult to block access to illegal operators, as the Internet has no territorial limit and that all these gambling companies are located abroad.
This new French law is already changing the landscape for online poker rooms in France as both PokerStars and Cake Poker have made changes to the way they operate there. Of course such high profile companies will follow the law.
Both poker rooms have applied for a licence. For now pokerstars is able to offer online poker in France, but as Cake Poker has not yet received approval, they had to completely withdraw from the French online poker market, losing thousands of players in the process.
Read more as France implements the new gambling law.