In breaking news out of Europe on Thursday, British e-gaming operator Sportingbet and its online poker site Paradise Poker announced that, until further notice, it will no longer accept players from France and Italy due to recent regulatory changes. Customers of Paradise Poker, considered one of the pioneers of the industry, were unable to access their accounts.
Details of the decision are yet to be released, but the news comes during a crucial period for the French online gambling sector. On March 1st, online gambling operators were issued a set of conditions which must be fulfilled if they want to obtain a license to offer games of chance to French consumers. The list, called a Draft Specification Requirements List, was provided by the French Regulatory Authority (ARJEL) and is composed of 11 main chapters that potential applicants have to comply with in order to obtain a license.
Applicants will have to provide the ARJEL with economic, accounting, and financial information, as well as a description of the applicant’s online gambling website. Details on the processing of players’ accounts must be also be presented and any sub-contracted activities must be clearly mentioned, as well as all kinds of internal controls and procedures.
With the help of local experts in the field, many operators are already prepared to submit their applications, with the opening of the new French gaming market expected to come on May 19th.
Betfair, another online bookmaker based out of England, has also expressed its decision to withdraw from the French market following the enactment of the law. The site has been openly critical of new license conditions and is considering whether or not to make an application for a license to operate under the new regime.
Tim Phillips, director of European public affairs at Betfair, said: “We are looking very hard at the French market and how we might operate within the new licensed regime. Though it’s not impossible for a newcomer to create a commercially viable business, most projections show it will be very difficult to do so, given the proposed restrictions imposed on license holders.”
In October 2006, Sportingbet announced that Paradise Poker would stop taking deposits from U.S. customers due to the passing of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). The online poker site saw a massive drop in sales and revenue as a result of the decision. In addition, Sportingbet sold all of its U.S.-facing sports betting and casino businesses to a group of private investors for $1. It is assumed that the deal also included a total of $13.2 million in debts.
Poker News Daily will have more updates on this story as soon as we learn more.