Online Sports Betting Hits 8-Year Highs in France

French flag with Eiffel Tower in background

France’s online sports betting revenues hit eight-year highs in 2018. A major reason was the popularity of the FIFA World Cup among punters.

France’s gaming regulator ARJEL has released figures showing that $1.12bn (£864m) in online sports bets were made from June through September.

This comes after their revenues for Q2 was just over $1.13bn (£872m). The Q3 result for 2018 is an increase of 81% over the same quarter last year. It is the largest year-to-year growth since the launch of the online sector regulations in 2010.

What do these figures mean?

The second half of the FIFA World Cup took place during Q3, when the average number of people placing bets rose 84% to 553,000 each week.

There were 14 matches in the World Cup in July, and they accounted for 16% of the entire revenues for Q3. This shows just how popular sports betting is during World Cups, particularly because France went all the way to the final.

The final itself, in which France beat Croatia, saw a turnover of more than $43m (£33m), the largest total for a single game in the history of the regulated sector in France. The previous record was meager in comparison, at $14.3m (£11.0m) for the UEFA Euro 2019 competition.

Other notable trends

Other markets saw subsequent increases thanks to the increasing gambling activity during the World Cup.

Betting on domestic and foreign leagues increased by more than 40%. As the saying goes, a rising tide lifts all boats.  The excitement people got from betting on the World Cup will lead them to continue betting in the future.

Tennis is the second most popular sport for betting. The sport’s revenues almost doubled in Q3 to nearly $293m (£226m) even though Wimbledon clashed with the World Cup. The only sport that didn’t gain in the quarter was basketball, which fell by 36% to $17m (£13m).

The final portion of the report covers online poker. France currently shares liquidity with players in Portugal and Spain. Stakes for cash games rose by 3% to more than $1.13bn (£872m) in Q3.

Gambling structures in France

Most forms of gambling are legal in France, and you have to be at least 18 years old to participate.

Two governmental bodies control most gambling activities in the country. Pari Mutuel Urbain (PMU) is in charge of horse racing betting and Francaise des Jeux (FDJ) looks after the lotteries and other forms of betting games.

Online gambling became legal in 2010, and ARJEL was set up to act as a regulator for that sector. This is an independent authority created by Article 34 of the French Gambling Act of 2010.

ARJEL looks after licensing, consumer protection, and cracking down on errant platforms targeting French residents. The main weapon ARJEL uses against illegal sites is to block their domains through the country’s internet service providers in the country.

Members of the French parliament frequently call for disbanding this independent authority. Some politicians believe that ARJEL has too much influence over the online gambling sector and it needs curtailment.

A proposed amendment in place currently would abolish ARJEL by February 2020. A new centralized authority that would be under tighter government control would replace it.

The French Gaming Act

The French Gaming Act was an important piece of legislation because it brought to an end the government monopoly that had been in place.

Now other European operators can apply for French licenses. As soon as the application process began, 35 European operators submitted applications. They still cannot offer casino games such as table games, slots, and roulette because politicians deem them to be overly addictive.

Some significant tax rates apply the sector. Every pot bet is subject to a 2% tax, is in addition to the rake that the poker platform itself will normally take. Therefore, players pay about 7.5% of the rake in comparison to the industry average of 4 or 5%.

All sports bet are subject to an 8.5% tax, which is also higher than a lot of other European countries. While it does act as somewhat of a disincentive for operators in the space, the latest figures show that all is well with the online gambling sector in France.

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