French government still to decide on online gambling tax rates

French gambling industry executives and other parties interested in the possible regulation of Internet gambling in France assembled last week in Paris to discuss issues and listen to the latest progress report from French government officials responsible for driving the project and drafting proposed regulations. The gathering attracted some 400 delegates - twice the number that attended a similar event last year, indicating growing interest in the future regulatory and tax regime in a tough economic climate.

French government officials told the gathering that they were on track to submit the first draft of a sports betting licensing scheme at the end of this (2008) year. Tax levels have yet to be clarified despite wide speculation that a 14 percent rate based on turnover may be applied - not a popular number with many operators who draw an important distinction between turnover and gross win.

Representatives of major French land gambling groups like Partouche and Barriere voiced frustration at the prospect of being unable to offer Internet gambling in competition with EU-based competitors and the state monopolies Francaise des Jeux and Pari Mutuel Urbain, and gave notice that they would lobby the French government for the right to compete.

There was some concern that it could be another year or more before operating licenses were issued, and it appeared to some that the global decline in business has brought the need for other sources of revenue into sharp and more immediate focus.

Delegates present at the meeting noted that government officials appeared to be paying close attention to consumer protections.

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