French Protest Over Proposed Changes to Horse Racing Betting

Posted on: April 1, 2017, 12:00h. 

Last updated on: April 3, 2017, 10:26h.

Anger has been simmering in France over issues related to gambling for more than a year and Wednesday it came to a boil as more than 2,000 people took to the streets to protest potential changes to the horse racing industry.

France horse racing
More than 2,000 people descended on the Ministry of Finance office in Paris Wednesday to protest proposed changes to France’s horse racing industry. (Image: APRH)

The demonstrators were made up of mostly thoroughbred and trotting employees and assembled in Paris in front of the finance ministry building in a peaceful, but dynamic rally. They are fearful proposed alterations could put them out of work.

They were voicing concerns over a plan with betting machines that the government wants to install around the country, as well as drops in revenue that they believe is also the fault of elected officials.

Betting Machines Opposed

Horse racing is big business in France and has one of the world’s premiere events, the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe, which is run the first Sunday of October and has been in existence since 1920.

It is widely believed that the sport of kings is the best in all of Europe.

The industry has been rich in tradition since Joseph Oller, who was also co-founder of the Moulin-Rouge, invented pari-mutual betting in 1891. Pari Mutuel Urbain (PMU) was created in 1930 and has controlled wagering since, both on and off the track.

The main issue is authorities wanted to install betting devices in more than 100 locations throughout the area in a test program. They had agreed to let Française Des Jeux (FDJ), a state-owned lottery and sports betting company, be the operators.

Uncertainty Creates Anxiety

If the machines were allowed, officials with PMU argued the control they had would be decimated and there would be a significant drop in revenue.

They already saw a drop in money. Last year €924 million was bet and forecasts are that there could be a decline, as there has been the last 15 quarters.

So when the pilot program of betting machines was announced it was not well received by the PMU. They fought it saying that it would be disastrous for them.

“We are going through a rough patch but that could lead to the establishment of a full and comprehensive gaming policy in France,” said Olivier Delloye, director general of France Galop.

Fear turned to outrage when it was learned that FDJ had ordered 18,000 units, confident the program would become permanent.

Fortunately the protest seemed to have work for now as the government announced the April venture had been suspended.