espite the regulator’s frequent recommendations for improvements, French politicians debating the nation’s new digital bill have so far failed to include key reforms on issues like tax and player liquidity, which have the potential to unlock the true potential of the market.
Having initially indicated that he supported such changes, the French finance minister Christian Eckert omitted these from the new bill for reasons that are still not clear.
France’s ring-fenced player market is a major problem, denying both players and operators the benefits which a truly international player pool can deliver, as discussions between ARJEL and other European regulators have shown.
Then there is the ban on table games like roulette, slots, and blackjack, which could boost revenues and activity. But as Coppolani ruefully said: “The priorities of the political power are often in contradiction with [ARJEL] proposals.”
The tax structure in French online gambling is also problematic, and has seen many operators giving up hope and exiting the market, particularly in poker where each pot is taxed. That is exacerbated by high market entry costs for operators, and a 33 percent tax rate on all corporate income.
Players, as is usually the case with consumers dissatisfied with the deal they are getting, have voted with their feet, and an estimated 50 percent of French online poker players patronize external websites that are not licensed by ARJEL.
Coppolani gave estimates that there are less than 5,000 players active each week on ARJEL-licensed poker sites, contrasting this with a French population of 67 million souls. Coppolani concluded that although his recommended reforms have the potential to revolutionize and reinvigorate the French market, the politicians are not yet ready to implement such changes.