Unless the French national economy improves by January 2010, when the liberalisation of that country's gambling market is planned, the rewards may not be as great as anticipated. According to the Paris-based statistical group Insee - the National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies - French consumers cut spending on everything from restaurants to gambling last year as inflation and an economic slump took their toll.

Gambling experienced one of the largest drops in expenditure, which fell 5 percent, the first drop since 1986. Lottery games were particularly hurt by the falling number of customers at cafés, where gambling is often available, Insee reported.

Shoppers, the main contributors to the euro-region’s second-largest economy, increased spending at the slowest pace in 11 years, the report revealed.

France’s economy slipped into recession in the third quarter and unemployment is the highest since 2006. While the government expects welfare payments and state aid to buoy spending, households are likely to keep to grip on consumption, reports Bloomberg business news.

“Spending is going to suffer,” Insee’s chief forecaster Eric Dubois told the news service this week. While he still expects consumption to increase this year, “superfluous” spending and “expenses that are the easiest to postpone” may be the first to disappear, he said.

The French government expects the economy to contract 3 percent this year before expanding 0.5 percent in 2010. It expects consumer spending to increase 0.3 percent in 2009 and 0.7 percent next. Consumers added 0.5 percent to growth in 2008, when the economy expanded 0.4 percent, Insee said.

The statistics contrast sharply with AAMS statistics from Italy (see previous InfoPowa reports) which show gambling revenues still in the 10 percent range of increases.

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