French regulations on sports betting by end of 2009

Speaking at the Palais Omnisports de Bercy in Paris, where he was briefed on the arrangements to combat betting made by the French Tennis Federation (FFT) during the Masters Series, French Budget Minister Eric Woerth said that legislation and regulations on Internet sports betting are expected to be in place by "late 2009-early 2010," reports the Reuters news agency.

Woerth said that drafting was almost complete, and the proposed bill would be presented to the French Council of Ministers before the end of 2008.

"It will be reviewed by the National Assembly and the Senate during 2009 and we will be ready late 2009 or early 2010," the Minister said.

The bill has not yet been submitted to the Brussels (EU) Commission, which had previously asked France to modify its existing and monopolistic legislation on the grounds that French restrictions on competition are not compatible with EU law, and that France has not shown the "necessary, appropriate and non-discriminatory" measures taken to restrict the free provision of sports betting.

Woerth emphasised, however that the changes were not being made as a result of EU pressure: "I do not do this because Brussels has requested it. I do it because it is necessary because these bets exist anyway and it is better [that they] be supervised," he said. Sporting bodies are expected to play a key role in the overall organisation and to benefit financially from online sports betting activity, and the French authorities also plan to impose naming and copyright legislation on the use of their sporting events' names and logos.

Last year, major tennis tournaments in Paris saw the amounts at stake in online gambling on matches at Bercy reach Euros 250 million, and the authorities are tracking 150 websites. "This year we are already at Euro130 million and this should exceed Euro 300 million by the end of the week," said Christian Bîmes, president of the FFT and vice-president of the French National Olympic and Sports organisation.

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