French Gaming Operator FDJ in Talks to Buy Online Horse Race Betting Site ZETurf

Posted on: September 21, 2022, 07:17h. 

Last updated on: September 21, 2022, 05:04h.

Gaming operator FDJ has a good grasp of the French market. If its latest plan to purchase online horse race betting platform ZETurf moves ahead, it’s going to control an even larger piece of the pie.

Horses come around a bend at Chantilly
Horses come around a bend at Chantilly against the backdrop of Les Grande Ecuries in France. Horse racing continues to be big business in the country, and gaming operator FDJ is hoping to gain a part of the market share. (Image: Racing Post)

The incumbent gambling operator wants to strengthen its position in sports betting via the acquisition of ZEturf. The latter is the second-largest player in online horse racing, following closely behind Paris Mutuel Urbain (PMU).

FDJ has a virtual monopoly on physical sports betting through its state-granted license. On the other hand, PMU controls most of the horse race betting market. FDJ hopes to take over.

ZEturf currently controls 20% of the market share of horse betting in France. With its subsidiary ZEbet, which is beginning to make a name for itself in online sports betting, the group registered €800 million (US$793 million) in bets in 2021 for a turnover of €150 million (US$148.7 million).

That’s way off the revenue of FDJ, which scored more than €10 billion (US$9.91 billion) in bets. Its turnover was €1.21 billion (US$1.24 billion) from January to June this year. Part of that goes to the French government, which still owns 20% of the company.

ZETurf Gets New Legs

FDJ is looking to grab the reigns of an online horse racing betting market that represented €1.5 billion (US$1.48 billion) in bets in 2020 and gross gaming revenue (GGR) of €354 million (US$350.9 million). That was a year-on-year improvement of 31%, according to the latest report from the National Gaming Authority (ANJ, for its French acronym).

But ZEturf has a considerable advantage, as it doesn’t only operate in the French market. It also has a presence in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Spain. Online horse betting represents more than 50% of the group’s B2C bets.

The acquisition is now under regulatory review. Should it move forward, FDJ will further entrench its position as a leader in French gambling. As a result, other acquisitions will likely appear on its radar.

Resistance Ahead

On the Paris Stock Exchange, FDJ’s shares rose almost 2% to €31.93 (US$31.64) at Tuesday’s end of the morning. That coincided with the company’s announcement of the pending purchase. The improvement follows the FDJ’s continued growth over the years. That performance led to an IPO in 2019, which opened at €19.90 (US$19.40) for institutional investors.

Still, not everything is coming up roses for the company, which is currently under investigation over its gaming agreement with France. Just over a year ago, the European Commission (EC) opened an investigation into the amount it paid in exchange for exclusive gaming rights.

In 2020, FDJ paid €380 million (US$376.5 million) to the French government. In return, it received exclusive rights to control the country’s physical and online lottery. It also received a monopoly on retail sports betting for 25 years.

FDJ already had those rights before the agreement, but for an undetermined period. France wanted to change its gambling environment, and the company looked for a way to lock in its presence.

Last December, the EC reported the amount FDJ paid was “substantially lower than a price that could be considered a market price.” As a result, FDJ may have to pay as much as another €1 billion (US$991 million).

The EC is still reviewing the case, and FDJ is cooperating. It continues to respond to requests for documentation to show that the transaction was legitimate and fair. There’s currently no timeline for the investigation to conclude.