France’s regulated online gambling market was firing on all cylinders in Q3, with poker posting its strongest growth in nearly six years.
Figures released Friday by French regulator ARJEL show locally licensed online gambling operators handled €549k worth of sports wagers in the three months ending September 30, a 23% rise over the same period last year, while betting revenue was also up 23% year-on-year to €106m.
The year-on-year gains are all the more impressive given that Q3 2016 included both the tail end of the UEFA Euro 2016 football tournament and the Summer Olympic Games in Rio. Weekly active player numbers shot up 26% to 301k, which helped push the quarterly betting revenue total above €100m for the second time this year.
Even without a major football tournament, the sport remains French bettors’ favorite activity, accounting for 60% of Q3 betting stakes. Second-ranked tennis was well back at 25%, while third-ranked basketball scored only 4%, despite basketball wagers rising 58% year-on-year.
Horseracing wagers enjoyed a rare double-digit gain, improving 15% year-on-year to €244m, while racing revenue improved 10% to €60m as weekly active race betting accounts improved 5% to 127k.
This marks the second consecutive quarter that racing stakes have improved, and the pace of growth in Q3 was significantly higher than Q2’s 9% growth. In fact, the vertical hasn’t shown such dramatic growth since the market liberalized in 2010.
ARJEL credited the gains to racing operators’ efforts to launch new simplified products to appeal to new bettors, while improving loyalty programs to retain existing bettors.
On the poker front, overall revenue rose 11% to €58m. After two straight quarters of cash game declines, cash game stakes shot up 8% to €885m, marking the biggest gains French cash games have enjoyed in six years. Cash game revenue improved 5% to €22.1m.
Tournament poker was equally buoyant, with fees rising 10% to €474m and revenue rising 14% to €35.7m. The French market hasn’t seen both poker verticals post simultaneous year-on-year gains since 2011.
Weekly active poker accounts rose 8% to 228k, reversing four straight quarters of decreasing player numbers. Cash games helped goose the numbers, with cash game actives up 12% to 68k, while tournament actives were up 9%. The gains came despite operators’ bonus expenditure falling 9% to €11.9m during Q3.
ARJEL is even more bullish about its rebounding poker market given that its licensed poker operators are still waiting on the starting gun for sharing poker liquidity with the regulated markets of Italy, Portugal and Spain.
France’s Q1 2020 Online Gambling Figures Up
In general, the gambling industry has quite the storied history when it comes to France. Some of the oldest and most popular gambling establishments exist within the country. Not only that, but it was France that contributed a great deal towards the development of today’s popular casino games. For example, it was in France that the Queen playing card became a permanent feature of the deck, forever replacing the Nobleman in the 1500s.
Today, gambling remains as a legal activity in the country, provided an operator holds a proper licence. Regulations aren’t especially strict within France though, although gambling taxes remain relatively high in comparison to many other countries. This also equates to online gambling, which has been legal since 2010 where sports betting, poker and horse racing betting are concerned. Online casinos aren’t quite as welcomed, though.
And while it hasn’t specifically been something that France raves and shouts about, perhaps it should start doing so. In Q1 of 2020, the online gambling revenue shot up, and this was prior to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic taking hold. A serious surge was witnessed according to figures released by French gambling regulator ARJEL. Locally licensed online operators managed to generate a combined revenue of €435 million from January through to March of this year. That’s a 22% rise on the same period from last year.
Sports Betting Falls but Gains Remain
Even though France’s overall online betting industry experienced gains, the sports betting sector actually fell by 4% year-on-year to €1.22 billion. That’s the regulated market’s first decline in nine years, although that was to be expected due to the cancellation of major sporting events in March.
Yet, even with this turnover decline, favourable sports results ended up netting an 18% betting revenue rise year-on-year, which was recorded as €263 million – an amount never witnessed before. There are many online betting sites for France, and these will doubtless have contributed to that overall total in Q1 of 2020. Generally speaking, it’s important for bettors to have a range of platforms to choose from when it comes to sports wagering, as different bookies offer different things.
It wasn’t only France’s sports betting sector that experienced record-setting figures in Q1, but its poker sector, too. Revenue spiked 44% year-on-year through those initial three months. This spike did seem to peter out later on, thanks to the resumption of certain key sporting events and the possibility for sports betting to take place in larger numbers again. The re-opening of land-based gaming establishments also contributed to the decline in online poker figures, too.
This is not so surprising though, considering that sports betting (and more importantly horse racing betting) has quite the tradition in France. Parimutuel betting originated in France too, which is just another contribution to the gambling industry that has come from the country. It remains to be seen what the figures for Q2 2020 will look like from France, although it is expected that online poker and sports betting will have experienced yet another rise in activity.
The gambling industry in France, un problème historique
The link between France and gambling always has been strong and could even be described as historic.
The country largely contributed to the development of gambling through time with the creation of inescapable games such as roulette (by the mathematician Blaise Pascal) and the 52 card game which gave birth to Baccarat or Shimmy (also known as Chernay).
As a consequence, it feels natural for gambling to be legal in France. But to settle on this territory, you must have a license from by several organisations:
• for betting activities: Pari Mutuel Hippodrome (PMH) and Pari Mutuel Urbain(PMU);
• for bingo lotteries and sports betting, only the Française des Jeux (FDJ) keeps the monopoly on land base activities.
Some conditions must however be respected if you want to offer gambling activities in France. For example, physical casinos can only be established in seaside and tourist towns (except Paris) and on some cruise ships with the French flag.
Since 2010, online gambling is regulated by the Autorité de Régulation des Jeux en Ligne (ARJEL), which can authorise licenses for club games (until now, only the poker is allowed), sports betting and horse races. Online casino games are forbidden in France.
Fifteen licenses have been issued by the ARJEL so far. This particularly low number of licenses can be explained by high tax rates which can frighten some operators.
However, the market is doing well as the third quarter of 2017 results show: an increase by 23% of the revenues linked to sports betting despite a year without international competition, a 10% growth of horse racing revenues and +5% for poker.
France is a market which needs to be followed especially as online casinos should be authorised very soon. The 2018 Football World Cup, with a French team considered as favorite for this new edition, should also contribute to the sector’s success thanks to high sports betting revenues.
On October 16, 2018, the inaugural European Gaming Congress in Ljubljana is set to host a panel where the state of France will be discussed directly with the regulator. To find out more details about the event make sure you follow our news.
French Pokerstars Gets Liquidity-Sharing Approval from Regulator ARJEL
PokerStars’ French operation has become the first site approved to share player pools with Italy, Portugal, and Spain, once new regulations are cemented.
ARJEL President Charles Coppolani has signed off on PokerStars.fr’s liquidity sharing license.
Following the news that ARJEL, France’s online gaming regulator, had struck a liquidity-sharing deal with some of its European neighbors, PokerStars applied for the necessary credentials. Under the entity Reel Malta Ltd, a division of the Rational Group, the online poker operator has been given the high sign to open up PokerStars.fr.
In an official notice published by ARJEL on December 14, President of the Regulatory Authority Charles Coppolani signed off on the agreement, but issued a number of conditions. As per the document, PokerStars.fr will only be able to share players and prizepools if all other regulatory bodies agree.
Additionally, the poker operator must inform ARJEL of any changes to its operations and only conduct its business across the agreed borders.
Spain also Steps Up
While PokerStars and ARJEL were coming to an agreement, Spain’s regulatory body was preparing its own contribution to the new liquidity-sharing deal. On December 1, the Dirección General de Ordenación del Juego (DGOJ) published its licensing procedure for sites operating shared playerpools.
Following implementation of the new guidelines, the DGOJ announced on December 12 that an application window would open up soon. According to a report by Poker Industry PRO, around ten operators will be looking to obtain approval from the DGOJ, with Spain’s PokerStars.es certain to be one of them.
While the exact timeline for liquidity sharing between France, Spain, Italy and Portugal has not yet been set, those involved are hopeful of a speedy process.
ARJEL’s Clement Martin-Saint-Leon recently told industry insiders that deal signed on June 6, 2017, could come into force as early as H1 2018. Speaking at the World Regulatory Briefing in London back in September, ARJEL’s Head of Consumer Protection said he was confident things could be in place relatively swiftly.
Prior to the agreement being signed, all four countries involved had seen their online poker economies contract. Although it took a while to piece together, those involved are confident that sharing players will help revive the current set-up and, potentially, lead to more deals in the future.
“This agreement will set the basis for cooperation between the signing Authorities in this context and will be followed by further necessary steps within each of the jurisdictions involved in order to effectively allow for liquidity poker tables,” read a statement from ARJEL on June 30, 2017.
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