France to consider opening online gambling market

Following a sustained attack from the European Court of Justice (ECJ) regarding its restricted Internet gambling market, French officials have initiated talks in Brussels to consider the opening up of the industry to foreign competitors.

A spokesperson for the French government said it wanted to show they were open to discussions. Meanwhile, gambling monopoly Française des Jeux said that talks would give them the opportunity to put an end to the “unfair competition from internet gambling sites”.

The ECJ has given France until October 29th to modify its online gambling legislation, which currently only permits native firms PMU and Française des Jeux to offer their services over the Internet. This policy has caused the French government to be in breach of article 49 of the European Treaty which allows for a free market in the service sector within the EU.

It is thought, though, that any liberalisation in the French laws would be limited to pool betting, to protect state monopoly Pari Mutuel Urbain. Officials have said in the past that the country is opposed to opening its borders completely, and would require foreign operators to establish a branch in France.

Petter Nylander, CEO of Unibet, commenting on the talks, said: “We’re listening, and the fact that there is a dialogue is encouraging. But customer demand and technology will always circumvent any of those restrictions. This is a step in the right direction but it’s not good enough,” he said.