Speculation a week ago that the French president was about to announce a more open gambling market in the EU nation was confirmed early this week when Budget Minister Eric Woerth told French media that his leader is aiming for a "controlled opening" of the betting market by 2009 or 2010.

Woerth told the French daily newspaper Le Parisien that when private betting providers are licensed to operate under Clun USA CasinoFrench regulations, they will be subject to the same conditions and tax regimes as Pari Mutuel Urbain (PMU), the current monopoly operator for betting.

Woerth said he expects the government to complete its plans this year and to launch a test phase in 2009 or 2010.

President Nicolas Sarkozy has displayed a more open mind to a competitive betting market in France, and Budget Minister Woerth and other French officials have held talks with European Commission officials in Brussels this year (see previous InfoPowa reports) It is believed that drafting of provisional regulations is already well advanced.

The new rules will open the market for online casinos, and Patrick Partouche, head of the Partouche land casino group, welcomed the possibility last week. His company already has an interactive gambling division.

Formerly one of the most aggressive opponents of any competition to its state gambling monopolies, France along with 9 other recalcitrant EU nations has been under increasing pressure from the European Commission, which is determined to enforce European Union requirements that member nations in the trading bloc permit free passage of goods and services with other members.