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Online Casinos & Gaming in France in 2018

France Online CasinosFrance has a long and eventful history with all forms of gambling. Roulette was born in France, and the country has boasted some of the world's best land-based casinos. Online casinos in France have recently been regulated and it means any overseas operator wanting to move into the new market must acquire a licence. That hasn't always meant the best choice for French gamblers but the internet is undoubtedly a safer place to be.

In recent years, despite being a key EU member, the country is dragging its heels in regards to online gaming. No doubt you’re wondering how the country that brought the world the 52-card deck and the roulette wheel has reached a position where some online games are unlicensed. But there are various circumstances at play – and let’s not forget that the country has a huge bricks-and-mortar casino industry to protect.

The EU has continually put pressure on French lawmakers to bring their policies in line with European regulations, and there has been significant change since 2010, but there is still a long way to go.

In terms of the best online casinos in France, residents can access some top games and offers. This means that slots enthusiasts in France can enjoy spinning the reels online just like the rest of us, without any worries about legality.

Under current French gaming law, it's legal to play at online casinos. France does require local licences, however, for sites offering games to residents. Here is a list of the best rooms in 2018:

Best French Casino Sites in 2018

  • Rank
  • Casino
  • Bonus
  • Play
1
100% UP TO €200
2
100% UP TO €777
3
400% UP TO €1000
4
200% + 25 Free Spins

Best French Casino Sites in 2018

1
Unique Casino
100% UP TO €200
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2
Casino777
100% UP TO €777
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3
Casino Superlines
400% UP TO €1000
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4
Vive Mon Casino
200% + 25 Free Spins
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Gambling Laws in France in 2018

For a country with such a rich gambling tradition it’s remarkable that the French authorities have prohibited certain forms of gambling over the years. Some of the oldest gambling establishments in the world can be found in France, and as a country it contributed to the development of some of today’s most popular games.

It was as far back as the 1500s when the Queen was introduced as a face card in the deck, taking the place of the Nobleman, and France was the first to introduce the standard 52-card deck that we use today. It was also a French mathematician by the name of Blaise Pascal who invented the roulette wheel in the 17th Century, which led to the development of the game we know and love. Even the idea of pari-mutuel betting originates in France, which is said to have been invented in the country around 1870.

There are close to 500 casinos, horse racing tracks and "racinos" (a combined racetrack and casino) dotted around the country. This might go some way towards explaining the French authorities’ reluctance to embrace the online world. However, some of France's best-established poker rooms have shut down in recent years.

Until recently two state-owned gambling operators monopolised the French gaming scene: The PMU - which looks after horse racing - and the FDJ which takes care of betting games and lotteries. The only notable legal changes over the last 20-30 years had been a reduction in the legal age for gambling, which was brought down to 18 from 21 in 1987, and the legalization of land-based slots machines in 1988, which for some reason had been banned previously.

That was until France finally caught up with the growing industry in online casinos. France now has one of the toughest online legal frameworks in Europe.

Viva La Revolution de Gaming

The French laws all changed with the revolution of 2010. After several years of pressure from the EU, France passed Law No. 2010-476 of 12 May 2010 (The French Gambling Act). Under the new rules, the state monopoly of casinos was broken and online gambling was allowed. It also paved the way for the establishment of ARJELAutorité de régulation des jeux en ligne - the regulatory authority for online games.

Under new rules, French online operators are required to apply for a license when running a casino, and online poker room, or a sportsbook (sports and/or horse racing) for real cash. 

This was a vital piece of legislation for players, as it opened up the French market to other EU gaming operators. 35 companies applied for and were granted licences to provide sports betting, horse racing betting, and online poker to French players.

Sadly, at this stage the government decided to exclude casino games, slots and table games, as they were regarded as “too addictive” by French politicians, although it appears to be a slight contradiction that they continue to be acceptable at land-based casinos. Nonetheless, the change opened up the market for French players, and they now have a far wider choice for sports betting and poker at the websites that hold French licences.

There remains a huge “but” though, and that revolves around the French authorities’ approach to taxation and regulation. The high tax rate has led to 15 of the 35 original operators to gain licences withdrawing their operations from the country as a result of unsustainable operating costs.

ARJEL: Autorité de régulation des jeux en ligne (the Regulatory Authority for Online Games) was set up following the 2010 French Gambling Act. It issues licenses to online operators and helps:

  • Protect players and vulnerable gamblers
  • Ensures the safety of games
  • Fights illegal gambling websites
  • Fights money-laundering and corrupt sites

When ARJEL was set up, any site operating under a .com domain in France had to reapply for a .fr domain. Guilty sites face a fine of €10,000 a day if they don't comply.

PMU: Pari-mutuel Urbain (PMU) is the main company in France that handles horseracing bets. PMU outlets can be found up and down the country. It was also the first online betting operator allowed in France.

Understanding Tax in French Gaming

When the Gambling Act was brought in, it included very high rates of tax for poker and sports betting.

Any poker pot is subject to a 2% tax rake in addition to the usual rake taken by the poker site. To put that in context, French players are paying 7.5% or more in total rake, compared to the industry average of 4-5%.

To make matters worse, the Gambling Act also prohibits the sharing of player pools across national borders. Or in other words, French players can’t play against anyone outside of France, and can’t compete for international tournaments or pots. Many licensed sites have stated that this makes it difficult to keep games running with such a limited pool of players.

The same high tax rate also applies to sportsbetting, which is liable for an 8.5% levy on every individual bet placed. When you consider that most of us can place a bet and collect our winnings without paying a penny in tax, you can see how this can have a huge effect on total profits for the punter.

In addition to these taxes, betting site operators are expected to pay 33% corporation tax, hence the large number of sites that have closed down.

Popular Casino Games for French Gamblers

At online casinos in France, gamblers have a wide spread of games available. Slots are relatively new to the French masses, but players will find hundreds to play at licensed .fr websites. European and French Roulette are also widely played. 

Slot Machines: Most large slot developers have licences to operate online in France. You can play in euros and all casinos with .fr extensions come in English or French.

Roulette: Roulette originated in France (roulette means "little wheel"). The game was brought to the US in the 18th Century where it flourished. European Roulette is available at most good online casinos. France sites also run American Roulette for real money.

French Roulette: French Roulette is an exciting variant of European Roulette that has an added insurance bet. The La Partage rule refunds half the player's even-money stake if a zero (0) appears. This helps reduce the house edge in French Roulette to just 1.7%.

Online Poker: Online poker was hugely popular until France decided to segregate its market. Along with Italy, Portugal, and Spain, France shut off its poker players from other countries. French poker players online had to make do with poker sites carrying .fr extensions. Only French players can access the sites. However, in 2018, there are moves to pool players with Spain.

Best Deposit Methods for French Gamblers

French players have a limited but safe range of deposit options when gambling online. A deposit in euros is generally allowed, and fees can be low. Deposits can take anywhere from a few minutes to two or three days.

Bank Transfer 

A direct bank transfer can be a good deposit option for French players. At online casinos in France, use your internet banking page to send EUR directly to the Cashier.

HiPay

HiPay is a secure French e-Wallet available in France and across Europe. The deposit method is generally free from fees, and you can use your French bank account to send money.

PayPal

PayPal is a leading e-Wallet provider that lets you transfer cash easily online. With a single anonymous virtual wallet, French casino players can fund their gambling with multiple credit cards and bank accounts, or other e-Wallets.

Live Betting and Casinos

Poker: Live poker has suffered in recent years, but France has always had a poker presence. The Aviation Club de France (ACF) operated from 1908 until 2015 when it was closed down and its licence revoked. Major tours like the World Poker Tour (WPT) and European Poker Tour (EPT) have held live tournaments in France. The Partouche chain of casinos has its own world-renowned championship too - the Partouche Poker Tour.

France has produced some of the world's best poker players over the years. Fabrice Soulier, Antoine Saout, and Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier have all won millions on the live circuit. France also boasts two or three major online poker rooms that are popular both at home and abroad.

Casinos: France has a long tradition of brick 'n' mortar casino gambling. In 2018, the Partouche group is the biggest chain and runs 39 casinos across France. "Roulette Anglaise" (European Roulette) is offered at most sites as well as Roulette Electronique (electronic roulette terminals). Players will also find European Blackjack, video slot machines, and "Bataille" (Battle).  A form of progressive jackpot video poker can also be played at Partouche casinos.

Find the Best Online Casinos in 2018

In 2018, it's possible to gamble at some top online casinos. France-based players have a wide selection to choose from. France's online gambling framework is more structured now, but operators have strict rules to adhere to. French players still have some great slots and betting websites to gamble at in 2018, and they can access top bonuses upon sign-up. Find a EUR casino that's right for you.

French Gambling at a Glance

Population: 67m

Legal Age of Gambling: 18

Land-based Casinos (Y/N): Y

Online Casinos Legal (Y/N): Y

Popular Games: Poker, horse racing, sportsbetting, roulette

Brief History of Gambling in France

17th Century - Blaise Pascal invents one of the first "roulette" wheels. Roulette means "small wheel" in French.

1870 - Pari-mutuel betting is allowed on some horse races.

1908 - Aviation Club de France casino opens on the Champs-Élysées.

1930 - Off-track pari-mutuel betting is allowed. PMU is created.

1973 - Partouche chain of casinos opens.

1987 - Legal age of gambling drops from 21 to 18.

1988 - Slot machines are legalized in France.

1997 - PMU starts to accept bets on overseas races.

2009 - After EU pressure, the French government passes the French Gambling Act and sets up ARJEL to handle and issue new licenses.

2010 - PMU launches online sportsbetting site, the first to operate under a new license in France.

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