French gambling industry leaps forward
French gambling industry has seen a strong growth across segments such as sports betting and lottery, and, according to Gambling Research, is expected to grow at a CAGR of 4% over 2016-2020, and reach EUR11 billion (US$12.64 billion) in 2020. This growth is mainly attributed to the emergence of online operators in the French market following the legalization of online gaming in the country in 2010.
The gambling landscape of France
Gambling in France dates all the way back to at least the 1500s when Queen was introduced to decks of playing cards. The lottery has existed in France since the 16th century, while Roulette emerged there in the 17th century. In 1842, the Blanc brothers modified the game by adding a zero to the wheel to increase the house odds.
Today there are nearly 200 land-based casinos in France offering a complete line of all traditional casino games such as roulette, blackjack and baccarat, as well as slot machines. Half of them are owned by such prominent casino groups as Par touché group, Lucien Barrière, JOA and Tranchant. All forms of gambling are regulated and legal in France with the exception of online casino games.
Since 2010 online gambling in France has been regulated by ARJEL, whereas land-based casinos, sports betting, betting on horses and lottery games have been regulated by the Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of the Economy and Finance since 1980-ies.
This past October the French government has announced that in 2020, it is going to introduce a new national gambling authority, L’autorité nationale des jeux (ANJ) to act as a single body to oversee all types of gambling in the country.
Land-based operators offer card games, casino games, sportsbooks, and racing betting, whereas online operations can offer only horse betting, sports betting, and poker.
Casino games are not allowed for playing online, as they are deemed as too addictive by the French legislature. However, it is noteworthy that since there are no laws that criminalize playing at unlicensed sites, players can choose from a wide range of licensed and unlicensed sites.
The growth of online gaming
Online gambling was legalized in France under the French Gambling Act, which became effective on May 12th, 2010. The Gambling Act was important for players, because it dissolved the government monopoly over the domestic gambling industry that existed before the adoption of the law. Since then, the French market became open to competition from other EU gaming sites. Thirty-five companies applied for licenses and became the first non-government entities to offer online poker, sports betting, and betting on horses.
Over the last two years, especially France’s online gambling market has demonstrated unprecedented growth records.
According to ARJEL statistics released in May 2019, wagers made on sports in 2018 amounted to €1.27b, which indicated a 51% year-on-year increase, a 20% rise compared to Q4 2018 and a new quarterly record since the market’s liberalization in 2010. Active player accounts rose from 2 million in 2017 to 2.2 million in 2018.
ARJEL supervises the legality of online gambling operations in France, bans illegal and unapproved overseas operators offering services to French customers, fights against fraud and publishes a list of approved online gambling operators. Some of the bigger names to get licenses included Poker Stars, Party Poker, and Everest Poker. About a dozen other sports betting organizations also received licenses. The introduction of competition to the market has been a good thing for i-gaming operators and players, although a high taxation hinders the online gambling industry growth. The burdensome taxes forced several poker sites out of the market.
The gross gambling revenue (GGR) of French land-based casinos and gaming clubs is taxed on a progressive scale. Thus, for land-based casinos the tax bracket range starts at 16% for gaming revenue under EUR200,000 and ending with 72% for earnings between EUR11,000,001 million and EUR14 million; GGR between EUR1,000,001 and EUR1.5 million is subject to 47% tax.
Casinos are also subject to paying 3% of the GGR as social contributions, while 68% of operators’ GGR from slot machines is taxed at 9.5% as a social contribution. Any winnings paid to players from slot machines equal or exceeding EUR1,500.are subject to 12% social contribution tax.
Lottery is subject the tax for the National Centre for Sports, which amounts to 1.8% of wagers. There is also a social contribution tax of 6.9% applied to 25.5% of wagers.
The tax contribution for sports betting is 5.7% of wagers, and the tax contribution for horse betting is 5.3% of wagers. In addition, there is a social contribution tax, which is charged at 1.8% on wagers.
The taxes for online sports betting and online horse betting are the same as for land-based sports betting and horse betting.
Online poker. The tax contribution for online poker is 1.8% of wagers. The social security contribution is 0.2% of wagers.
The tax rate on gambling in France is significantly higher than England’s 15%, Spain’s 25% and Denmark’s 20%. France is the only country in the world where gaming duty on poker is applied to stakes, rather than on the revenues, and all poker pots are taxed 2%. The Gambling Act 2010 imposed excessive taxes on both poker and sports betting. Sports betting and horse racing winnings were slashed with 8.5% tax in 2010.
However, as sports betting and horseracing grew more popular, to stimulate the players’ activity, the tax on sports betting and horseracing winnings was abolished in 2016. Since 2016, sports betting and horse racing winnings have been tax-free for punters.
Nevertheless, the French government’s step towards allowing online poker liquidity sharing deal with other European Union member states and jurisdictions, and introduction of new options in the poker segment are seen as a positive sign for the online gambling industry.
In January 2018, PokerStars became the first operator to join its players in France with those in Spain. During that quarter, online poker revenue figures in France climbed a five-year high.
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