Before 1987, only those above the age of 21 could engage in gambling activities in France. This was lowered to 18 allowing many more French citizens to engage in this popular pastime. The gambling industry in this country is regulated by two bodies controlled by the national government. They are the FDJ (Francaise des Jeux) and PMU (Pari Mutuel Urbain).
They subdivide the different gambling products permitted in the country. FDJ is in charge of all sports betting and lotteries while PMU oversees horse racing. Recently online gambling became legal in France but is overseen by a third regulator ARJEL. Similar to gambling in the UK, this is not a new industry in France as the earliest accounts are from 1500.
In France, you can enjoy both land-based and online gambling. Online gambling was restricted for some time until recently. One must adhere to the set of rules and regulations. It’s hard being a licensed operator in France due to heavy taxation by the national government. Restrictions are another hurdle that local companies should contend with. Many operators are opting to exit the French market rather than keep working while making losses.
Sport betting, especially on soccer, is one of the most popular gambling activities in the country. There are also lotteries, casinos both land-based and online, bingo, and poker among other forms of gambling.
Read also: Gambling Legislation in the EU.
Facts and Figures on Gambling in France
- Paris has 8 grand land-based casinos with the oldest, Aviation Club de France, opening its doors in 1907
- 2019 saw 174 million people engage in gambling activities. Of this total, 632000 engaged in Sport betting, 146000 in horse race betting, and 269500 in poker across France
- The Gross Game Revenue for 2019 from sport betting was EUR 880 million, horse race betting EUR 271 million, and from poker EUR 272 million.
Licenses and License Restrictions in France
Gambling in France is not under one regulator. Different gambling products fall under various regulators. To get a license, an operator needs to pinpoint the right regulator for the product they intend to offer.
ARJEL is in charge of issuing all licenses involving online gambling in France. Both the FDJ and Ministry of Interior are in charge of lottery licenses in the country. Finally, land-based casinos get their licenses issued by the Ministry of Interior.
When it comes to applying for a land-based casino license, certain requirements must be met. A written agreement must be produced between an operator and the city/town where it will be located. An authorization from the Ministry of Interior is required and this comes after consulting with the CCCG (Consultative Commission on Circle and Casino Games). The license obtained is global and all the staff working under the operator should be licensed as well.
Lotteries need approval from the PMU or FDJ. It all boils down to which gambling product the operator intends to provide. After getting approval from the SCCJ, they can start operations. ARJEL is the stop for all online gambling activities in France. It’s quite extensive to obtain this license and needs plenty of information provided to this regulator. The legal structure, shareholders, management, and liabilities of the company must be produced by the company seeking a license.
Only those operators that are based in the EEA are permitted to apply for the online gambling license in France. The measure is taken to further safeguard the interest of French gamblers. After any of these licenses are issued, each operator needs to adhere to the rules and regulations of gambling in France. All operations must transparent and meet the standards set by the respective regulators and Ministry of Interior.
Read also: Overview of Online Gambling Licensing and Regulation in Austria.
Online Gambling in France
The EU has been instrumental in changes around gambling, especially online gambling in France. It urged it to change its restrictive rules and regulations to permit more operators to offer online products as well. Changes took place back in 2010 with the passing of the Gaming Act (2010-476). It’s at this time that ARJEL was created as an independent regulator of online gambling in France.
The main responsibilities of this regulator are the issuance of licenses and to oversee online gambling in the country. With the new Act, most of the government monopoly on the industry came to an end. Many players and operators were relieved of this change. Only operators located within the EEA are permitted to operate within France providing online gambling products.
So far ARJEL has issued over 30 licenses to international operators creating a competitive gambling market in France. There is still restriction around certain casino games like roulette and slots that are too addictive. Many French legislatures believe permitting them online could lead to more instances of problem gamblers. Many gaming sites are not permitted to offer these traditional casino games to their clients online.
This has created a chance for unlicensed gambling sites to be the favorite of many people seeking traditional casino games. Online gambling in France includes both casino and sport betting that many people prefer and flock to stake or bet on. With the changes in the industry brought forth by the Gaming Act, the national government increased taxes levied on locally licensed operators.
Sport betting and poker are the hardest hit with high taxes. Poker pays 2% and sport betting 8.5% which has made it tough for many operators to stay in business for long. Players have protested this high taxation that results in high rake in poker and no wins in sport betting. Recently some online operators have opted to exit the French gambling market as a result of these high taxes levied.
There is a restriction by the national government that makes it illegal for local operators to share pools for players internationally. Local operators are only confined to players in France and not permitted to accept registration from those outside, even within the EU. Many French players are excluded from international tournaments and matches.
Any operator found to operate within France without a proper license is subjected to criminal proceedings as per the law. It’s illegal for French citizens to engage in illegal gambling using said unlicensed companies. Many online operators opt to exit the market because it’s become harder to go around French laws and permit international players.
Only those above 18 years are permitted to engage in gambling activities as gambling is not permitted to minors. Every operator must display a warning sign to this effect on their online gambling websites. This is in a bid to discourage minors from engaging in gambling activities. Every player must prove their identification and age while registering on a platform.
Problem gambling is still prevalent in France and the national government has put in measure to combat this. ARJEL has made it possible for players to learn how to close their accounts in case they want to stop gambling.
Read also: Online Casino Regulation in the United Kingdom.
Changes proposed by the EU about gambling have forced France to change some of its rules and regulations. For one, players can now engage freely on online gambling. More needs to be done to open up the industry even though the national government is reluctant. There are still casino games restricted from being made available online like roulette. They can be quite addictive leading to cases of problem gambling. So far many local operators have opted in and out of the local market due to high taxation.
Read also: Gambling Regulation and Licensing in the Netherlands: Facts & Figures.