French Online Poker Regulators Consider Softening Eligibility Rules

Posted on: January 21, 2013, 10:18h. 

Last updated on: January 21, 2013, 10:57h.

The French online poker industry saw a decline in revenue in 2012, with cash games being the main culprit for the decline, as they fell 5%. Tournament games on the other hand actually rose 21%, but as tournaments make up a small portion of the overall revenue, it wasn’t enough to overcome the decline in cash games.

In light of the results, the president of ARJEL, the regulatory agency that oversees the rules and running of the French online poker industry, stated that there may be a need to open France’s online poker borders to players from other nations; with the caveat being that France only ally itself with other EU countries with similar rules and regulations governing their online poker industries in place. It’s thought this pooling of cash games will result in more games being played, and greater revenues for all countries involved.

The real problem however may simply be that the French government is taking too big a slice of the pie from their players, and in so doing, is eating away at the very size of that pie. The government taxes cash poker games to the tune of 2%, a much higher rate than in other countries that run country-exclusive online poker sites, including Italy and Spain. Nor is this problem only now being highlighted, as two French MP’s produced a report on their country’s online poker industry back in 2011 and determined then as well that taxes were too high, and could be result in French players being driven to play elsewhere or not at all.

As a result of the declining revenues, the number of operators in the country also fell, from 23 to 16, as several companies conceded that the pie simply wasn’t big enough for them to get a decent sized chunk, and looked for greener money making pastures.

Whether pooling international players from several countries will have any effect on increasing the overall size of the market of those nations involved remains to be seen. The French market should be large enough to sustain itself as several other similar-sized EU markets do, which should hint to authorities that the issues triggering the decline are not related to the size of their player base. In fact such a sharing of international players could actually hurt the French market more than anything else, making it easier for their players to legally play through sites with smaller rakes. But with no tax relief for battered French players in sight, it seems to be the only Plan B scenario that could potentially help alleviate the decline.