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French Online Casino Gambling Liberalization

By: Fabian Rictor, Monday February 15th 2010
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France is trying to put in place the mechanism for licensing and regulation of online gambling before the Soccer World Cup. The draft law has already been approved by the National Assembly, which is the lower house of parliament, and is currently being scrutinized by the Senate.

To the delight of the European online gambling operators, the finance commission of the Senate ruled that one of the conditions in the draft law was uncalled for and has decided to modify it. Many private operators do cater to French players. The draft law required these operators to close down the accounts of their existing French clients before they could apply for licenses under the new policy. According to a report in iGaming France, the Senate has held that this requirement is not needed. The report quoted Senator Francois Trucy as saying, "The issue of the closure of French accounts is not in question; operators will be able to carry on working with French players between the law being passed and licenses being handed out." However the operators who would be given licenses would have to create new sites with an .fr extension and move their existing French players from their current sites to the new sites.

This announcement did not go down well with some of the major land casino operators in France, who will be applying for online gambling licenses under the new policy. Three of these land casinos, Tranchant, Barrière and Joagroupe, have sued a number of European online gambling operators in the Paris Criminal Court for taking on players from France in contravention of current French law. They have asked the Court to bar these operators from being given licenses for two years. Some of the names included in the law suit are Sportingbet, Unibet, 888 Holdings and Bwin. The Times carried a report of the response to this development from Sportingbet. Maitre Martine Karsenty-Ricard, who is representing Sportingbet in this legal issue, said that the suit filed by the land casinos is not sustainable in law because the Paris Court has no jurisdiction over companies that are not registered in France. The decision from the court is expected this week.

Though the European online gambling operators do have some French players on board, they are catering to a small portion of the potential French market. They need the licenses to operate in France so that they can advertise and promote their services in that country. Without this facility they will be unable to compete effectively with the licensed operators. Therefore they would be eagerly awaiting the decision of the Paris Court and later the approval of the bill by the Senate.

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