by Hillary LaClair, Senior Editor
March 13, 2009
While the European Union has not had much success entering the United States’ online casino gambling market, France announced last week that it will allow online casino transactions within its country. Eric Woerth held a press conference in which he discussed the future of internet gaming in France.
“It’s no use denying the reality of online gambling and the expectations of French people,” said the French Budget Minister.
The European Commission has made several attempts to allow online casino operators within in France to compete with state monopolies, adhering to E.U. jurisdiction. Sports betting in particular has been the focal point of pushing France into the internet gambling market.
According to Reutors, Woerth met with EU internal markets commissioner Charlie McCreevy last week in order to prevent the EU taking action against France for restricting internet gambling. Woerth told the press that France will open its doors to online casino gambling by the second half of 2009, sooner than the previously reported 2010.
“Proceedings against France for our monopoly as regards to online betting have been open since June 2007. In these circumstances, either we dig in our heels or we change our position,” he told Reuters.
Prior to the press release, the EU had issued France a final warning about changing its internet gambling laws, threatening the country’s government with court action if it did not comply. Preparing for the eventual legalization, a number of French casinos have dought and won the approval of eCOGRA, a non-profit industry standards body and free arbitration platform. The Vegas Partner Lounge Group, which owns a number of online casinos and poker rooms, owns www.casinofrancenet.com and www.goldenrivierapoker.com, which it has successfully obtained an eCOGRA Seal of Approval.
“Leading online casino and poker room brands recognize that players care about the ‘Play It Safe’ seal, and that seal=bearing casinos attract more players and create additional revenue opportunities,” said Andrew Beveridge, the CEO of eCOGRA. “We applaud these operators for their efforts and encourage others to help us reach our 100 seals goal by committing to the eCOGRA principles of fair gambling, responsible conduct and player protection.”
The European Commission has been involved in a number of infringement proceedings. In addition to France, Sweden and Greece where it has had the most success, the EC has cases against Australia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy and the Netherlands. After Denmark, Finland and Hungary replied to the EC’s written request for information, the EC resolved their cases.
Along with the bill to legalize and regulate online casino gambling in France, Woerth shared the tax structure which will accompany the text. He foresees a 2 percent tax on online poker and 7.5 percent tax on sports and horse racing. The gambling legislation is said to be voted on before the 2009 summer parliamentary recess, and released by the end of the month or in early April. The gambling market is anticipated to open by the end of 2009, and licenses will be distributed on a five-year contract basis.