French Gaming Authority to Issue Licenses Prior to Start of World Cup



After ending the state run monopoly on internet gaming only two months ago, France is moving rapidly towards the licensing of new online gaming outlets for its citizens.

In reports from the European online news station Rapid TV, the new French regulatory authority for online gaming, ARJEL (Autorité de Régulation des Jeux En Ligne, which literally translates as the Authority of Regulation of Online Games), has stated that the first licenses under the new French gaming laws should be issued prior to the start of the 2010 World Cup. Thirty licenses are up for grabs and, according to Rapid TV reports, 20 major online gaming powers have applied. Because a license has to be issued for each gaming operation, several companies have made multiple applications for their particular gaming fields.

Two operators in particular are looking for significant access to the French gaming market. bwin, which operates its poker arm under the Ongame Network banner and is the fifth largest network in the online poker industry according to PokerScout.com, has applied for licenses for sports betting and poker. BetClic, which features noted poker professional Isabelle Mercier as its spokesperson and is part of the IPN family, has applied for sports betting, horse racing, and poker licenses. It was previously reported on Poker News Daily that Microgaming (the ninth largest poker network) has submitted three license requests, two of which are for 888.com.

Two other notable European gaming operations, Betfair and William Hill, have decided not to participate in the French licensing procedures and have barred French action from their sites. In the eyes of these two European gaming giants, the licensing restrictions are too harsh and rules regarding average returns to players are anti-competitive. Both companies have stated that they will review their stances once the licensing procedures have been further analyzed.

The licenses that ARJEL is authorizing could be quite valuable to an online gaming company. The licenses are good for five years, with a renewal option, and costs for the licenses are minimal. It is believed that companies will pay a €5,000 fee for one license, an €8,000 fee for two and a surprisingly small €10,000 to cover all three areas open for participation under the new French regulations. As a part of the application process, companies must provide extensive information regarding the state of the company, including economic, financial, and accounting data. Another part of the application process requires any company looking to earn a license to demonstrate that they have adequate measures in place to counteract the areas of underage and problem gambling and infiltration by criminal organizations.

Back in mid-April, the French Parliament took the step to regulate the industry rather than continue the state run monopoly that had been in place for the last three years. The bill that was passed opened up the lucrative French market to three forms of gaming: horse racing, sports betting, and online poker. The bill, which passed by a majority vote of 299 votes to 223, was soon signed into law over the objections of some of the elected members of Parliament and the World Cup was targeted as the point for the first licenses to be issued.

The 2010 World Cup, which starts June 11th in South Africa, was a natural target for French gaming officials to set. As the most viewed sporting event in the world – the 2006 World Cup was viewed by a total of 2.629 billion people, with the final drawing 715.1 million viewers worldwide – betting on the 32-team tournament is expected to draw between one to three billion pounds in the United Kingdom alone, according to reports from the Wall Street Journal. To get off on the right foot with their new regulatory authority, French officials certainly would like to get a piece of that action in their country.

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