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ARJEL pressure sees ISPs blocking

‘unlicensed’ operators

The first figures are emerging from online’s unveiling in France, with a surprising lack of domestic domination. Graham Wood reports.


rance’s ‘controlled opening’ of its online gaming sector took off during the summer with several dozen companies now operating .fr websites offering sports betting and/or poker. A number of these (PMU, Zeturf) also offer betting on French horseracing. However, the laws that came into force in April of this year expressly reserve retail betting to the current monopoly operators Francaise des Jeux and PMU.

Betting shops have ‘attractive qualities that aren’t going to disappear’

‘in good nick’

Playtech, the firm is lauding its internet performance a success story. Sportsbook turnover was up 59 per cent year over year, with gross win margin almost one per- centage point higher at 7.7 per cent helping net revenue growth in the sportsbook of 77 per cent. Topping said: “Our sports- book is spearheading our online growth; we’ve had 134 per cent growth in foot- ball turnover and 102 per cent growth on in-play numbers. Bet volumes increased by 51 per cent of H1 to 42m and the average transaction size was up from £12.31 last year to £13 dead- on this year.”

As well as the firm’s mar- keting expertise that it acquired from Playtech, William Hill is using its sportsbook to drive cus- tomers to its online gaming products. Topping added:





102.6 44.9



“The platform runs flash- based games. They’re an absolutely ideal cross-sale to sportsbook customers, because they download so fast.”

New accounts up for the period rose 38 per cent with unique active players increasing by 20 per cent. Gaming net revenues grew by 10 per cent year over year with bingo’s 52 per cent


111.5 - 8% 31.4 +43% 1.2 -300% 134.6 +1%

jump in revenues more than compensating for the 5 per cent decline in poker revenue. Casino net rev- enues grew by 8 per cent. There was also a hint of online expansion through acquisition from Topping when he said: “There is money available if we want to find any online opportu- nities; the right online opportunities.”

The new licensees include Pokerstars, Party Poker, PKR and Everest Poker as well as most of the French gaming companies (Francaise des Jeux, PMU, Partouche, Barriere, Eurosportbet and Chili Poker). With online casino games off limits, high betting duty and a restricted product offer for sports betting, many overseas operators are noticeable by their absence, with poker proving to be the more attractive option for gaming companies. Taxation for tournament poker is only 2 per cent and for cash games the equation is similarly attractive. The majority of major poker operators are now up and running and although gaming authority ARJEL appears not to be emulating its neighbour in Italy by revealing details of operators’ performance, one website - - has produced its own league table.

The site ranks Pokerstars as top operator so far with an average of 1,520 players in its poker room over seven days during the second week of August, whilst Everest Poker took second place with 1,280 players online. Ongame’s network of, and had an average of 750 players online and the French version of Party Poker 660. Although rudimentary, the figures do give an indication of who is leading the pack and who is underperforming. Notable by their absence from the top of the listings are French operators such as Chili Poker.

ARJEL did, on the other hand, report

figures for the performance of licensed online operators during the World Cup. The first betting companies to obtain their licences, seven French firms including Francaise des Jeux and PMU, plus Bwin, went live on 8 June, whilst a similar number of other operators went live half way through the event. Whilst it was revealed that 83m euro (£69.4m) was bet online on the World Cup, Francaise des Jeux, in a separate press release, reported that 90 per cent of its total 145m euro (£121.3m) turnover during the event came from retail outlets. This makes interesting reading for Stanleybet and horseracing operator Zeturf, both of which have lodged legal challenges this year relating to the legality of the French government’s decision to allow Francaise des Jeux and the PMU to continue their retail monopolies.

BettingBusinessInteractive • SEPTEMBER 2010 03

With betting duty at 7.5 per cent plus a further 1 per cent to be paid for the right to bet on sporting events - this in itself being a particularly contentious requirement given previous legal challenges over the issue of sporting rights by the likes of William Hill in the past - few of the world’s betting companies have applied for French licences, although Paddy Power and Ladbrokes have become partners with local operators PMU and Eurosportbet respectively.

In the meantime, ARJEL has been getting tough with those companies targeting the French market from abroad, at the same time making no friends amongst the country’s Internet Service Providers who went to court to try and avoid their responsibility for ensuring that French gamblers cannot access overseas gaming sites. Unfortunately for them, the court found in favour of ARJEL and therefore more legal developments against unlicensed operators are expected. With the French adopting a more stick than carrot approach, observers will be watching keenly to see how successful the newly regulated market will become, whilst directors of operators with .com gaming sites may be increasingly nervous of holidaying in France from now on.

The PMU is facing a challenge to its retail monopoly

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