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Despite being home to a large and active online betting market, as well as boasting more than 200 land-based casinos, online casino is strictly prohibited in France.

Last week, however, a new legislative bill was introduced in France’s National Assembly which proposed to change that, as Democratic Movement politician Philippe Latombe set out a slew of guidelines for the legalisation of online casino in France.

Below, iGaming NEXT sets out key background information and characteristics of the newly proposed bill, in order to see what a regulated online casino sector could look like in France.

1. Proposed timeline

The proposed timeline as set out in Bill 1248 is somewhat glacial for the international iGaming industry – with the launch of a regulated market set to be followed by a five-year ‘moratorium’ period, during which only French companies would be permitted to offer online casino.

According to the bill, that timeline would allow “national players to develop in serene economic conditions before a total opening planned for 1 January 2030,” thus giving French companies an advantage over international operators who could otherwise “disrupt our regulatory frameworks [and] weaken the national casino industry.”

Precedence would therefore likely be offered to France’s land-based casino operators, the 15 groups and 29 independent operators currently running the 202 casino venues spread throughout the country.

2. Market access

It is not clear from the bill whether a US-style ‘skins’ system could be implemented – thus allowing existing online operators to offer online casino via market access agreements with land-based operators.

Regulus Partners (RP) suggested somewhat tentatively, however, that “the ability of French casinos to leverage online operators on a B2B basis is unlikely to be sufficiently restrictive as to make it impossible.”

The proposal may therefore echo existing legislation in the US, Belgium and Switzerland, RP added, and even without a ‘skins’ based system, France boasts enough separate casino operators to provide “sufficient competition to create a dynamic market”.

3. Potential market size

According to France’s National Gambling Authority (ANJ) – which regulates online poker, sports and horse racing betting in the country – between 1.4 million and 2.4 million French players currently use overseas, unregulated operators to play online casino.

RP suggested that those estimates make more sense on an account basis rather than unique customers, but that figure would still leave around half a million French residents regularly using unlicensed online casino operators.

Those figures suggest black market spend from France of around €2bn annually, RP said, meaning “the French online casino black market is already roughly the same size as the domestically regulated online betting and poker market, and 80% of the €2.5bn land-based casino market.”

That reality leaves France unable to continue to ignore its lack of online casino legislation, RP suggested, adding that “allowing the status quo to continue is simply negligent: it undermines player protection, encourages crime, and damages France’s tax base.”

Further, an open, highly channeled online casino market allowing the cross-sell of customers from online betting could help grow the size of the online casino sector by a factor of two, RP suggested, to as much as €4bn per year.

That would help the French government generate upwards of €1bn in extra taxes, RP added, “which is genuine ‘free money’ for the state because it captures existing activity rather than transferring it.”

4. Tax rates

Speaking of taxes, rates for France’s existing gambling market are among the highest of any seen worldwide.

Tax rates were not mentioned explicitly in Bill 1248, but would likely be along the same lines as in France’s existing betting and land-based casino sectors.

Its land-based casino sector, for example, pays taxes as high as 83.5% of GGR on slots revenue, leading RP to suggest that for online casino, “a rate of 50% or more of GGR is almost guaranteed.”

For context, retail betting operators in the country pay 44.5% of GGR in taxes, while online operators pay 37.7% of GGR on racing betting and 55.2% of GGR on sports betting, according to figures from the International Betting Integrity Association.

5. Market oversight

According to the proposals set out in the bill, the online casino sector would be overseen not by the ANJ but by land-based regulator the sociétés de fourniture et de maintenance (SFM).

That body currently oversees and manages all of the gaming machine purchases made by France’s land-based casinos, with operators unable to buy their equipment directly from manufacturers or establish revenue-share models with them – instead, purchases and installations must go through the SFM.

Latombe suggested in the bill that the regulator’s land-based experience would allow it to ensure “global control of physical and electronic casino games” and “preserve the overall balance of the rules” governing online casino.