Tuesday April 22,2014 : NEW FRENCH REGULATORY CHIEF SPEAKS ON THE MARKET
But is he right on what ails the sector?
Despite his previous experience in government research into problem gambling, you have to ask whether the new head of the French regulator ARJEL is really up to speed on the realities of the French market.
Charles Coppolani, the new boss at ARJEL, gave one of his first interviews to Les Echoes – a French newspaper – this week and displayed a markedly different view from that of his predecessor, Jean Francois Vilotte.
Vilotte seemed to have a better grasp in identifying the causes behind France's lack of success in regulated online gambling – poker in particular – which has seen operators frustrated by performance below the norm in Europe as players perhaps seek a better experience and more tempting offers elsewhere or in the unlicensed sector of the market.
The former regulator was unable to persuade politicians to act on his opinion that the on-going decline in French online poker was due to factors such as the lack of player liquidity in the ring-fenced market and the exorbitant taxes that French operators are required to pay.
He was also clearly in touch with the unpleasant but emphatic reality that French players are sufficiently switched on to know where there are better gambling experiences and more attractive offers.
His solution of reducing taxes, sharing players and offering a bigger and better variety of games fell on deaf ears in the political arena, a frustrating experience which some observers speculate was at the root of his resignation.
Coppolani, judging from his interview, appears to have a different take on what ails the French market.
He opined in the Les Echoes interview that the European economic crisis must have had an impact on the player and his or her behaviour, and contrary to the abundant evidence of success among the "young gun" generations in poker all over the world, he appears to feel that the game is too complex for the younger demographic.
He is also of the view that poker's popularity is generally on the wane, although here it could be argued that he is supported to some extent by the continuing slide in the poker traffic stats monitored weekly by the independent monitor Pokerscout.
Consequently, Coppolani seems to believe that the answer is to tighten up on enforcement against unlicensed operators, and to continue to promote the concept of responsible gaming and guard against problem gamblers.
He claims that the French government has achieved its primary goal in regulating online gambling – creating a safe and fair gambling environment on the internet – but that in itself is unlikely to comfort operators struggling with shrinking business and heavy taxation.
Based on his comments so far, there seems little likelihood of practical and meaningful change.