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France's Court of Auditors calls for overhaul of gambling regulations and taxes

The wide-ranging report carried out by the Cour des Comptes, presented by president Didier Migaud, concludes that France's current regulatory framework is too fragmented to be effective, with too many ministries involved to achieve a unified and coherent strategy.

The investigation into French gambling regulations was launched in November last year based on a request from the president of the National Assembly.

The report most notably urges a rethink of the country's model of gambling taxation, which is currently based on gambling turnover as opposed to gross gaming revenue, in contrast to most other regulated jurisdictions.

The high level of taxation is believed to have had a detrimental effect on channeling French consumers towards regulated offerings.

The report also highlights a "growing fragmentation of responsibilities" between different government departments. It notes that the Ministry of Finance has responsibility for changes to regulation and taxation; the Ministry of the Interior is responsible for the oversight of land-based casinos and poker, and the Ministry of Agriculture regulates the horse racing industry. Following the passage of France's Digital Bill the Ministry of Industry and the Digital Economy also now has a say.

This, it notes, is too inefficient and means that the Advisory Committee overseeing the gambling sector struggles to do its job.

To address the issue, a new inter-ministerial committee should be established comprising all government departments involved in the sector, in order to simplify regulation and oversight.

This would also help to strengthen controls to tackle problem gambling, a key goal of the 2010 law, which remains "incomplete".

The Court notes that 5 per cent of players currently have moderate or excessive risk profiles while minors continue to gamble, with a third of those aged between 15 and 17 said to be gambling. There is particular onus on La Française des Jeux to tackle this issue, with young people particularly attracted by sports betting and scratchcards in its physical sales network.

To tackle this issue, the Court suggests making the use of player cards mandatory for gambling in retail establishments. It also urges an update of the self-exclusion list to ensure that it is more effective in giving players an opt-out.

It also proposes giving the iGaming regulator L'Autorité de régulation des jeux en ligne (ARJEL) greater powers to tackle unlicensed operators and channel players to regulated offerings.

The regulated offering should also be improved by introducing an expedited testing and approval process, allowing new games to be legalised as they grow in popularity and prominence.

Finally, the report says that more needs to be done to tackle corruption, particularly in France’s horse racing sector.

While the Court acknowledges ARJEL’s proactive efforts in tackling corruption in sport, it feels there is a lack of control in horse racing and recommends a legal framework to strengthen ethics by making doping and corruption criminal offences.

The Cour des Comptes says that the need for these changes and the adoption of new perspectives on gambling is "particularly urgent". The 2010 law was able to address the most pressing issues facing the French market at the time, but now "an overall strategy establishing a set standard of stronger, unified, regulation must be defined", the court said.

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