The French football team may not have covered themselves with glory during the World Cup in South Africa recently, but the punters certainly made French bookies happy, according to a report from the Reuters news agency.
French online gaming revenues surged during the football tournament as gamblers took advantage of a more liberalised market in France, although many wagers were still placed with operators not licensed in the country.
France made online sports betting legal in early June, just in time for the World Cup, widening the choice of online betting venues.
Reuters reports that official French figures show that operators garnered revenue of Euro 107 million during the World Cup, 70 percent of it on soccer, with an average stake of Euro 10.
Before the market was legalised, the online gambling market was generating 3 to 3.5 billion Euros in annual gross revenues, of which two thirds was estimated to be illegal bets placed with operators not licensed in France.
During the first month following legalization, 1.2 million French bettors chose to gamble on licensed sites, around half the total estimated number of players.
The international gambling consultants Global Betting & Gaming Consultants, say the gross gambling yield – gross turnover less the amount paid out to players as winnings – is set to double in France to Euro 665 million between 2009 to 2011.
Isabelle Parize, vice-chairman of Mangas Gaming, parent of the BetClic website, told Reuters: "It is well known that a large amount of players come in to bet on these big events and get out right after. The question is to know how many players will stay and how much they will bet."
Online gambling operators are looking for ways to retain gamblers who placed bets on the World Cup, relying on technological developments such as smartphones, live betting and interactive television as easy to use and convenient channels.
Reuters opines that media groups that opted for partnerships with experienced online gambling companies instead of becoming operators themselves could emerge as the real winners, and will additionally benefit from advertising revenue from new entrants to the French market eager to boost their image among potential online gamblers.
Operators invested Euro 40.6 million in advertising, according to figures from WPP's Kantar Media, which reported that Pari Mutuel Urbain (PMU) accounted for one-third of this amount as it sought to tell people it had expanded into sports other than horse racing.
Austrian listed group Bwin Interactive invested more in advertising than the French operator la Francaise des Jeux, which benefits also from its 25,000 retail shops.
Online poker operators still appear to have problems with the restrictions imposed by French licensing, which insists on licensees having dedicated French websites serving only French residents.
Online poker activity was licensed from the end of June this year, and there are already complaints of high taxes and the danger of restricted player liquidity due to non-French players being excluded (see previous InfoPowa reports).
"It could be a problem for the poker industry if all these [European] markets break down into individual countries. It ruins the benefit of having a pool of players across Europe," said Lorien Pilling, from GBGC. "Obviously, each individual country's players are restricted then to their markets, which could damage the [international] online poker business model."