|According to a piece in Forbes magazine this week, France’s Interior Minister, Michele Alliot-Marie, has announced that the Government could be open to a more reasonable approach to online gambling.|
The magazine reports that the Minister wants to liberalise online gambling in order to allow French casinos to be ‘present in these new markets without lowering the level of vigilance that operators and the State must maintain on the quality and offering of games.’
France enjoys a State monopoly in online gambling through the Government-owned lottery Francaise Des Jeux and the PMU betting organisation with only these two currently allowed to operate online games of chance in the nation. This has led to pressure from European regulators concerned that international operators are being unfairly blocked from some markets. In July, European competition laws overturned a French ban on Maltese betting company Zeturf, a sign that foreign players were making themselves heard.
Francaise Des Jeux and PMU have justified their monopoly by stating that gambling needs to be regulated and certified and that they are the bodies best able to do so. In practice, this has given the State carte blanche to stifle competition in France and resulted in the arrests of executives from Austrian betting firm BWin last year.
'The negative developments of last year, such as the arrests of the Bwin co-Chief Executives, have not been repeated,' a press release from SportingBet read last week.
'Indeed, it is symptomatic of the change in prevailing member state attitude that the French authorities, who initiated the arrests, spent mid-September discussing the liberalisation of its gambling regime with the European Commission.'