SBC News FDJ in talks for exclusive dot FR iCasino licence

FDJ in talks for exclusive dot FR iCasino licence

SBC News FDJ in talks for exclusive dot FR iCasino licence
Jake Pollard – Gaming&Co

Sources suggest that France’s national lottery operator could be in line for exclusive iCasino licence…  

Could lottery operator Française des jeux be about to agree a deal with the French government that would see it become the only company licensed to operate online casino games in the country?

According to French industry sources, FDJ and the country’s authorities are working on a regulatory project that would make such a venture possible. Should it happen industry stakeholders of all sides would be up in arms about it, with horse racing monopoly PMU understood to be particularly upset at the idea.

Both AFJEL, the country’s online gambling trade body, and Casinos de France, the land-based casino lobby, were highly active during the parliamentary debates on France’s web3-JONUM regulations that concluded in October. They put forward numerous amendments outlining their visions for a regulated iCasino vertical in both houses of the Assemblée Nationale.

With AFJEL calling for a competitive regulated online casino sector and CdF putting forward a proposal where only physical casinos would be licensed as part of an experimentation period. These were rejected, but FDJ would be making its move with full knowledge of those proposals.

Should the information be accurate, events are expected to unfold from February 2024 when the European Commission is expected to have reviewed France’s online digital bill in which the JONUM bill is included. FDJ did not respond to requests for comment.

The nature of the group’s instant and scratchard games (in both online and retail settings) are close to slots products and at the time of the web3-JONUM deliberations, FDJ executives warned government officials about the risk to those revenues should the iCasino regulations put forward by AFJEL and CdF be adopted.

There is no guarantee that FDJ will be awarded the exclusive rights to online casino games in France, but as with the web3-JONUM legislation it pushed through in October, the French government has shown it would have no qualms about doing something similar, only this time in favour of FDJ.

Industry observers have also pointed to the fact that as opposed to the regulation of online sports betting in 2010, the government has not stated its intention or desire to regulate online casino, preventing a concerted regulatory and lobbying effort from all stakeholders.

How the French government would frame handing over an exclusive online casino licence to a single operator is a question industry contacts are pondering. One of them explained that “the authorities could present it as a three or five-year experiment with a review set at the halfway point, emulating what they did with the web3 regulations”.

European infringement proceedings against France would be likely in the event of FDJ being granted an exclusive online casino licence. However these can be lengthy, drawn out and favour incumbents. It’s also worth noting that the French state still owns around 25% of FDJ and the group is the most active of all the French gambling operators across all channels.

It has exclusive rights to land-based sports betting and lottery operations, with the latter complemented by online bingo and scratchcard products also on an exclusive basis. Its recent acquisition of ZETurf has enabled it to become the number 2 digital horse racing pari mutuel brand and number 4 online sports betting brand in France behind Betclic, Winamax and Unibet.

In 2021 FDJ paid out €3.8bn in taxes to the French state, making it the largest gambling contributor to French coffers, which gives it considerable sway over regulatory proceedings.

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This article is published by SBCNews in partnership with Gaming&Co

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