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Online Gambling: French bill to boost sports betting firms

Online Gambling: French bill to boost sports betting firms Early next month the French Parliament is scheduled to vote on an online gambling bill that would open the internet gambling market in the country, specifically for sports betting and online poker operators. A welcome news for the struggling publicly traded companies in the U.K. and other E.U. countries, as the current French monopoly on the gambling services held by Groupe Francaise des Jeux and Pari Mutuel Urbainhas prevented the online gambling firms which trade their stocks on public markets to offer sports betting, poker or casino games to French residents. The bill, if passed, would allow sports betting and poker to be offered by foreign online gambling companies, which will have to go through an application and approval process, although online casinos and other games of chance will remain off-limits.

 This online gambling bill is certainly a welcome news for E.U.-licensed operators such as Will Hill and 888 Holdings. Those sports betting firms currently trading stock and holding license from EU countries such as U.K. have been keeping away from France to avoid legal problems, but the bill would finally allow them to tap into this new market. But the online gambling and sports betting websites operating offshore are hardly impressed. Run by private operators on offshore islands throughout the world, thousands of online gambling companies are already offering services to French residents, despite the legal situation. According to estimates, over 75% of the wagers placed online in France are done at those exact offshore companies, which is one of the reasons France is opening up, ever so slightly, to foreign gambling competition. Taxes missed from revenues at the offshore internet gambling companies are placed close to the billion Euros by some estimates and even the most conservative ones are in the hundreds of millions Euros.

 Thus unlike the USA model where legislature is focusing on laws banning online gambling, France will try to bank on the already blooming sports betting on the internet in the country. In the original proposal the tax to be collected on online sports betting was set at 7.5% while poker profits would have been taxed at 2%, but in its current form the bill leaves the final tax levy percentage in the hands of the parliament. But whatever the final outcome of the online gambling bill in France, the simple fact that France is looking towards regulation rather than banning internet gambling is a welcome news by the industry worldwide.

 Published on 09/27/2009

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