But current provisions fall short of private sector demands

The French National Assembly has voted in favor of a bill to liberalize the country’s remote gambling market.

The long-awaited reforms, designed to bring the French industry more in line with EU open-market requirements, now go the Senate for debate.

However, the liberalization, as currently crafted, falls short of the demands of private-sector operators that want to offer online gambling and betting in France from elsewhere in the EU. They complain that the reforms still protect the preferred positions reserved by the French government for the state-sponsored monopolies Pari Mutuel Urbain and Les Francaise des Jeux.

In a report by the Web site Gaming Intelligence, the Remote Gambling Association, a trade group representing mostly UK operators, cautioned that even further restrictions may be introduced into the bill as it progresses towards enactment.

“In its current form, the planned French legislation will simply not be viable for the vast majority of private sector operators and France will miss out on the opportunity to share in the growth and associated benefits of having its own thriving, regulated online gambling industry,” said RGA Chief Executive Clive Hawkswood. “It also runs the risk of further challenges at the EU level because the level of restrictions are such that they could be considered unacceptable barriers to market entry.”

Those concerns were echoed by a second group representing private operators, the European Gaming and Betting Association, based in Brussels.

“At the time when Europe is watching the development of France’s reform, the introduction of even more unjustified restrictions is threatening to corrupt the efficient workings of the market. If the Senate votes along these lines, the prospect of a French market that is both viable and compliant with EU law is a long way off,” said Sigrid Ligné, the secretary general.