France permits Pari-Mutuel-Urbain (PMU), its monopoly horse race and sports betting network, to offer its services over the Internet. Previously, no other forms of online gambling were permitted in France.
In September of 2006 the co-CEOs of Austrian Internet gambling company Bwin were arrested in Paris for allegedly violating French gambling law. While the CEOs were released a few days later, the arrest led to the speculation that France would soon be adopting the same stance as the U.S. in regards to online gaming.
France is among nine EU Member States whose gambling regulations are under investigation by the European Commission for potentially being over-restrictive.
In July of 2007, the European Commission instructed the French Government to modify its draft law on online gambling to allow foreign gambling companies to operate in France or face legal action. France was originally given a deadline of August 24th. On July 10, 2007, the French Supreme Court overturned an appeals court ruling that had banned a Malta-based remote gambling company from offering online race betting to customers in France. The decision suggested that France was taking steps to modify its regulatory framework in regards to online gaming.
In September of 2007, the European Commission extended the deadline for France to modify restrictive online gambling legislation to October 29, 2007.
Following a final warning in June of 2008 to modify their current rules in regards to online gaming or be taken to the European Court of Justice, France announced that they would consider a controlled opening of online betting which would begin in 2010.
On March 5, 2009 the French Treasury Minister announced the completion of a draft bill that is set to go before the French Minister’s Council in April 2009. The bill establishes a controlled opening of online betting in France starting January 1st, 2010. Also detailed are tax rates, the establishment of a regulatory agency, licensing requirements, and fines and prison sentences for illegal operators. Unique to this bill is a clause requiring online sports betting and race wagering operators to reach agreements with organizers so that they too will receive additional revenue.
Concern has already been generated about the fact that the bill would criminalize online gaming sites that have been declared legal only by EU member states and not by France, as well. The European Union has previously indicated its wish for mutual recognition of EU member states’ approval.
In October of 2009, the French Parliament introduced an amendment to the online gaming laws prohibiting punters from placing bets in France. Companies such as Betfair view this as a major hit since they allow punters to place bets. So far, the European Commission supports France in their new amendment.