Several of the top UK Internet gambling companies are poised to take full advantage of the imminent opening up of France’s online gambling market. William Hill Plc, PartyGaming Plc and also 888 Holdings Plc are currently facing a fairly slow home market and the promise of the French market about to open its doors to foreign operators has caused quite a stir.
On 7th October, The French parliament will be presented with a Bill that is set to allow foreign gaming companies to offer their citizens online poker and sports betting. This will effectively end the current monopoly held by Groupe Francaise des Jeux, the state lottery provider along with Pari Mutuel Urbain, the horseracing gambling operator. All other forms of online gambling will remain unlawful.
PartyGaming’s chief executive officer Jim Ryan said that with the size of France’s population and their love of gambling, the opening up of the French market, which the company has always treated with caution, provides exciting opportunities for PartyGaming. Their poker brand, PartyPoker is the largest online gambling company in terms of revenue in the UK.
Analysts expect that sales generated by electronic gambling will reach €671 million in France in 2010, which is more than double the current figure, assuming the new laws come into effect by late May or early June next year. This figure could rise still further to an estimated €1 billion in 2011.
In a statement made in March, Eric Woerth the French Budget Minister said that his country initiated plans to open up and regulate their online gambling market in direct response to the growing number of illegal gambling websites that were accessible in France. The numbers had grown to 25,000 which account for a staggering 75 percent of all online bets taken.
The European Commission recently placed a lot of pressure on all EU member states to reform their gambling markets. In 2007 they threatened to sue France if it did not alter its stance.
Both 888 Holdings and William Hill are watching developments closely as the legislation makes its way through the French parliament. They will be ready to make their applications for online gambling licenses as soon as they become available. Of course the attractiveness of the French market to foreign online gambling operators will depend partly on the proposed rates of tax as well as other rules and regulations.