French state online gambling monopoly coming to end?

The French government, currently working on legislation aimed at opening up its previously monopolised online gambling market in order to comply with European Union requirements, is being advised on the the privatisation of national lottery and gambling company La Francaise Des Jeux via a share flotation sometime next year by Merrill Lynch professional business services.

According to the newspaper Les Echos, Christophe Blanchard-Dignac, head of La Francaise Des Jeux, has revealed that the company was preparing for a decision by the State on how to reduce its 72 percent stake.

La Francaise Des Jeux runs many games in France such as the standard Loto lottery, Millionaire, Keno, scratch card games and the Euromillions European lottery. The firm, which was started in 1933 to benefit war victims and those hurt by agricultural disasters, had 2007 sales of $13.26 billion with 28.5 million players and a network of 38 700 outlets all over the country.

Blanchard-Dignac stated that while online sportsbetting would be liberalised in the second half of 2009, some 96 percent of the company's activities would remain within its monopoly.

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