French politicians call for gambling reform

Gambling reform France

Two French politicians are calling for an overhaul of the country’s online gambling legislation.

The Socialist Party’s (parti socialiste) MP Régis Juanico and Jacques Myard of Les Républicains, are calling for a major reform of the French gambling market with several proposed strategies for online sports betting and poker games.

But the pair still wants to keep the ban on online casino games.

The market was regulated back in 2010 but has since faced scrutiny for being over-regulated compared to other European jurisdictions, particularly when it comes to taxation.

Among the proposals is the formation of one single independent administrative authority to regulate gambling, the encouragement of researching new casino games or new forms of existing gaming, and a new taxation framework to be adopted.

Currently, licensed operators in France are taxed on the total amounts staked, instead of the gross gaming revenue (GGR) – the latter model is preferred by other European countries, such as Denmark.

Online poker also sees a tax of two per cent on every cash game pot, in addition to the standard rake – operators and players can’t easily profit from the game.

The report specifically recommends the GGR model be applied in online poker temporarily until a broader impact assessment on the regime can be carried out for all gambling sectors.

“In the immediate future, it would make sense to provide the same fiscal treatment for online poker and for ‘table games’ offered in land-based casinos, and consequently to subject online poker to taxation based on GGR and not on wagers,” said the MPs.

This change would facilitate the formation of an online poker network based on player pools of France and other jurisdictions, which has been discussed for many years. It’s only recently seen major progress.

Last year, gambling regulators of Italy, Spain, Portugal, the UK and France commenced work on the potential merger of their player pools. But out of all of these countries, France is the only jurisdiction to tax operators and players differently.

The poker shared liquidity agreements have been promised to be reached by mid-2017. To deliver this promise, the French government will need to act fast with an online gambling tax reform.

The MP’s report isn’t binding and the French elections later this year will see a new government which may not consider the GGR taxation regime.

Established political figures have already commented saying the new government will “never take the risk” to promote changes which could make the gambling sector more workable.

The report also suggests maintaining the ban on online casino games in the short term as it isn’t “desirable to authorise online gaming machines and online ‘table games’ (except online poker)” since the competition would severely impede on land-based casinos.

This is the second report in just a matter of months, following a publication from the French Court of Auditors (Cour des Comptes) in October 2016. This report criticised the current framework for gambling in France.

The Court requested reforms to attract players to the French gambling industry, while also ensuring a safe gambling environment.

The country’s current gambling laws have been criticised for many years, with many arguing the strict regulations have driven players to offshore online gambling regulators.