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France: Record Euro 2016 betting fails to lift licensed operators

The Association Française du Jeu en Ligne (AFJEL) said that the record betting volume witnessed during the Euro 2016 tournament should not distract from the need for urgent structural reform of the country’s iGaming market.

The warning followed the recent release of figures by French online gaming regulator the Autorité de régulation des jeux en ligne (ARJEL), which showed that Euro 2016 attracted more than €137m in online bets with French-licensed operators.

This surpassed the €109m bet on the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, and eclipsed the €31m bet on the UEFA Euro 2012 tournament.

AFJEL said that the amounts wagered reflected the French public’s growing interest in sports betting, adding that most bettors do so on a largely recreational basis.

It warned, however, that operating results for licensed French operators remain “very negative.”

"There is a major structural deficit in the market," said AFJEL. 

The association explained that of the €137m wagered online in France on the tournament, €115m was paid out to players. An additional €13m will be collected by the state as taxes and levies; €1.37m will be given to UEFA, and almost €7m has been spent on advertising.

This leaves the country’s twelve licensed sports betting operators with a profit of just €630,000, before operating and recurring expenses.

“This reflects the overall fragility of the regulated iGaming sector, which is taxed based on amounts wagered rather than the income actually received by operators once winnings have been paid out,” AFJEL said.

In addition to changes to the tax structure, AFJEL has also called on the French government to legalise gaming products in order to strengthen the market, describing this as a solution that would benefit all parties.

It proposes allowing online casino games while maintaining La Française des Jeux’s existing gaming monopoly, highlighting the fact that no new products have been authorised in France since the market was re-regulated in 2010.

AFJEL believes that an expanded gaming offering will ensure order and public safety, as well as ensuring the economic sustainability of the regulated sector. It believes the move would direct players away from unlicensed gaming sites, which it says account for an illegal gambling market worth between €500m and €700m. The move could also generate between €150m and €400m in additional tax revenue for the state.

“We welcome the outstanding growth of online sports betting during Euro 2016, but this should not hide the weaknesses of the current system, which are particularly damaging to the licensed industry,” AFJEL president and Betclic Everest chief executive Isabelle Andres said.

“A clause to review the regulations was added to the original gambling law of 2010 in the autumn of 2011,” she explained. “For policy reason and due to the legislative agenda, this has not been used, preventing necessary adjustments being made to the regulations.

“It is therefore essential to extend the market to allow online games. This will benefit not only operators but also the tax authorities, and players that will be able to gamble in a secure environment."

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