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French gaming bills passes

So the French National Assembly have passed the online gambling bill with the remaining procedures before it is implemented merely a formality. But what is actually going to achieve for French punters and foreign companies?

It will be slow progress. Those French punters already playing with offshore firms will continue to bet where they do, simply because they will be able to get a better deal. Firms obtaining a French licence may be able to advertise locally, but if the proposed level of taxation and possible sports levies are passed, then firms will have to pass that cost onto consumers. If they don't, it will be a major cost against their bottom line. Firms such as Ladbrokes and William Hill are expected to take a patient approach, expecting the regulations to gradually become more competitive, as is the case in Italy.

Companies entering the French market will not be allowed to cover horse racing, one of the most attractive parts of the French betting market, due to government protection of the PMU, the local tote pool. Sport, particularly football, will be the main driver of business for sports betting, while poker and casino get a look-in as well.

The business partnerships have been coming thick and fast in recent weeks: Paddy Power have decided the safest option is to go B2B and have struck a deal with the PMU to supply all their sports betting product. FDJ, the local lottery and pools providers needed new sports betting software, so not only did they buy new software from gaming developers LVS, they acquired the company. The PMU struck a deal with PartyGaming for poker. Ladbrokes have struck a joint venture deal with the Canal+ media company for media distribution and an online betting service, following the example of Betfair in Australia, shared 50/50 with PBL, the local media giant. Mangas Gaming have signed a strategic partnership with the M6 media group along similar lines, and of course Eurosport have had a betting site going for several months, designed primarily to attack the French market when it opened up. And I'm sure I have missed some others.

So what will happen to other firms? Betfair have specifically been blocked by the legislation, but they are no stranger to fighting (and winning) battles in court. Read Mark Davies' blog for the latest there. The Italian government made a feeble attempt to block foreign sites without local licences - the result is that every punter in Italy now knows how to change their DNS server to get around the restriction. France will probably try it, but you can't stop them seeing foreign sponsors on football teams, racing cars, race tracks etc.

One thing we do know is that France loves being stubborn and not caring what anyone else thinks. That's admirable in one sense, but let's see if the modern world and EU laws will allow them to drag their heels for very long....

Thanks to France24 for quoting me in their article, although I'm not sure it's all perfect in the translation :)

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