Change in French gambling policy ? - update

Further details are emerging from Thursday's press conference in Paris on the opening up of the French gambling market (see previous InfoPowa reports).

Budget minister Eric Woerth told reporters at the conference that France will open its gambling market to competition and begin to grant online betting licenses in 2010, seeking to stem 'illegal' gambling and safeguard billions of Euros in tax revenue provided by the industry each year.

The minister said the gambling market in France would be expanded to adapt "to Internet reality" and help France "get out of an unsustainable situation in which the state is losing a growing part of the betting market," the International Herald Tribune reported.

France has been under mounting pressure from the European Commission to open up its state monopolised gambling market in compliance with EU principles.

State monopoly Pari Mutuel Urbain, widely known as PMU, which has the monopoly on horse-racing bets, had annual revenue of Euro 9.3 billion last year, whilst La Française des Jeux, the state-owned monopoly that operates lotteries and sports betting, had similar revenues in 2007, the latest figures to hand.

Woerth said that 'illegal' gambling generates some Euro 7 billion a year, and claimed that there were 25 000 illegal gambling Web sites in France, representing 75 percent of the market.

"Rather than banning 25 000 Web sites, we'd rather give licenses to those who will respect public and social order," he said.

Woerth said his proposal, which will be presented to the French cabinet at the end of the month, will introduce a levy of about 7.5 percent on Internet wagers on sports events and horse races, and of 2 percent on online poker wagers.

Unveiling his long-anticipated plans for online gambling, Woerth said it was "no use denying the reality of online gambling and the expectations of the French people".

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