|France will begin issuing authorisations for online betting operators from the second half of next year after agreeing with the European Union (EU) to open its Internet gaming market.|
According to the Reuters news agency, Budget Minister Eric Woerth made the announcement following meetings late last week with Charlie McCreevy, Internal Markets Commissioner for the EU. The two had discussed proposals that would avert court action against France by the 27-nation bloc over the nation’s restrictions on online gambling.
'Being realistic, we're beginning a controlled opening up of online betting, which we have presented to the European Commission,' said Woerth.
France’s gaming sector is currently controlled by two monopolies, Parimutuel Urbain (PMU) for horse racing and Francaise Des Jeux for lotteries, with Woerth stating that the Government would seek to preserve its share of revenues from the industry, which he put at $8.27 billion. He said that there was no alternative to meeting EU demands but European authorities revealed they were still waiting for detailed provisions before making a final decision on whether to suspend legal proceedings.
'Proceedings against France for our monopoly as regards online betting have been open since June of 2007,” said Woerth.
“In these circumstances, either we dig in our heels or we change our position.”
He said a law would be presented in Parliament after the summer break with a regulatory authority established by the beginning of next year followed by the first approvals in the second half of 2009.
'Regarding horse racing, only parimutuel betting will be allowed,' said Woerth.
'For other forms of sportsbetting, we will hold discussions with leagues and federations. There, we will not have parimutuel betting but fixed-odds betting. We also want to open up casino games like poker but also roulette or blackjack.”