Reports that French politicians have rejected ending the ring-fencing of the country’s online poker market are far off the mark, the country’s regulator L’Autorité de régulation des jeux en ligne (ARJEL) has claimed.
ARJEL has spoken out following reports that an amendment to a new digital bill being debated in the country, which would have allowed licensed operators to pool liquidity with other jurisdictions, has been rejected by the Lower House of the country’s Parliament, the Assemblée Nationale.
This seemed to end any hope of allowing French citizens to compete against players in other countries, with a similar attempt to pool international liquidity rejected in 2013.
At the time the French poker market was also struggling, but it was argued that this was an industry-wide phenomenon, meaning liquidity pooling would have limited effect.
ARJEL said late last week however that the amendment has not been rejected nor withdrawn, and will be presented for consideration when the digital bill is debated in the Higher Chamber of the French Parliament, the Senat. This is expected to take place in April this year.
The regulator also suggested that this amendment was far from doomed, noting that Secretary of State for the Budget Christian Eckert had stated that the government was in favour of the measure at a conference organised by ARJEL last October.
The new digital bill was published in April last year, containing a number of provisions specifically related to online gaming.
As well as allowing for liquidity pooling, the bill also proposes that players be given access to data gathered by ARJEL so that they can assess their own playing habits and gauge whether they are in danger of developing problem gambling habits.
It will also create a new mediation body to settle minor disputes between players and companies. A simplified process for ARJEL to take action against illegal operators will also be established, to make sanctions procedures much simpler.
France’s poker market has struggled badly in recent years, with stakes for cash games falling 14 per cent year-on-year in 2015 to €3.73bn, though tournament entry fees were up 14 per cent to €1.77bn. This resulted in a 4 per cent drop in combined poker gross gaming revenue for the year.