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French Gambling : The year in retrospect and what lies ahead

1/20/2012 :  ARJEL REPORTS ON 2011
 
The year in retrospect and what lies ahead
 
French gaming regulatory authority ARJEL president Jean-François Vilotte summarised the performance of the French online gaming market during 2011 in a statement published this week.
 
The authority was candid in its assessment of the year, acknowledging the challenges of providing a suitable environment that would discourage players from seeking out unregulated websites and the need for adjustments to the regulatory and current economic models, specifically referring to the opening up of competition in the online sports and horse race betting sectors.
 
Interesting overall statistics on the regulated French market were provided in the statement:
 
-     10 of 57 licenses were revoked in 2011
-     9 new licences were issued.
-     17 percent of the 41 operators ceased activity
-     34 operators hold 46 licences of which 15 are sportsbetting, 22 are poker and 9 are horserace betting.
-     52 percent of active players play poker - of these 46 percent spend Euro 10 per month in tournaments and 44 percent less than Euro 30 per month on cash games.
-     66 percent of those active poker players are under 35 years of age who spend more time in the evening playing games.
-     76 percent of horserace bettors are over 35 years of age with 20 percent of those women.
-     Sports bettors are younger in age with only 31 percent over 35 years of age.  8 percent of sports bettors are women.
-     Sports bettors spent on average less than Euro 10 per month on the activity.
-     4 million player accounts were open at the end of December 2011, of which 2.3 million were active.
 
Market data for 2011showed very different characteristics for each sector of the market with online poker cited as the most popular delivering a steady growth of 12 percent during 2011 with gross gaming revenues of Euro 314 million, 1.2 million active accounts and strong growth in tournament activity (48 percent) despite stagnation in cash games at the end of the year.  ARJEL has submitted a proposal to Government on the introduction of three or four new variants of poker games.
 
The online horserace betting sector experienced growth with Euro 1 billion placed in bets and 500 000 active player accounts.  However, the body acknowledged the need for the creation of sustainable competitive conditions for smaller operators, falling in to compliance with EU law.  A decrease of 23 percent in bets placed and a 17 percent decline in GGR was experienced in this sector attributed to structural issues surrounding a lower player rate of return that resulted in a decrease in business volume.  A knock-on effect saw operators reducing marketing budgets by as much as 55 percent, creating a cycle that affected operators’ growth and development potential.
 
Staying in the sportsbetting sector, a 22 percent decline in football betting and a 36 percent decline in tennis betting during the year prompted ARJEL, in consultation with industry players, to expand the categories to include 42 new betting competitions and an additional 22 results options.
 
ARJEL showed impressive vigilance over the year with 41 formal notices sent to licenced operators and one referral to the Enforcement Committee.  Following legislatory approval to block internet access to illegal websites, ARJEL delivered over 1000 enforcement notices to internet hosting service providers and illegal operators.  Further action is planned in the forthcoming year that if successful will see law passed allowing the blocking of payments.
 
Going forward:
 
For the French market to remain competitive and experience continued growth, ARJEL will recommend an amendment to existing law that will see the inclusion of skill games and all the regulatory requirements that go along with it.
 
Technological advances specifically catering for mobile gambling and the protection of players and prevention of fraud are also on the cards.
 
Singling out Full Tilt and the need to safeguard players’ funds, ARJEL has approached the French Budget Ministry with a proposal that will compel gaming operators to provide proof of insurances or the existence of a security trust to ensure player funds are ring-fenced.
 
Integrity in sport has been addressed with the formation of a new sports department that will be responsible for developing operational cooperation between regulators and foreign sporting bodies in a bid to stamp out corruption and match-fixing.

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