Online sports betting was legalized in 2016 when the French government amended the Gambling Act. The decree was a big plus for French punters because it dissolved a previous monopoly. The independent authority, Regulatory Authority for Online Games (also known as ARJEL), monitors online sports betting, horse racing, and casinos.
That said, online gambling sites must apply for a local license from ARJEL. The permit has a validity of five years, after which the applicant may renew it. All gaming sites are inspected after their first year of operation. Then, ARJEL regularly audits the platforms throughout the licensing period.
Operators who violate the gambling laws may face withdrawal of licenses, a monetary fine of €90,000, and three-year imprisonment. Marketing of unwarranted betting activities is also banned and may attract a penalty of €100,000.
The gambling laws in France require licensed platforms to give 8.5% payback based on the amount wagered by the players. However, eSports bettors are not taxed because sports betting is not a lucrative occupation. Brick-and-mortar gambling avenues are permitted to host sportsbooks and casino games altogether.
However, online operators cannot add casino games to their game lobbies. A significant population of French punters plays eSports at unlicensed foreign sites. The good thing is that no French law prohibits playing at foreign websites, whether licensed or not.
eSports legislation in France
The legislators decided to exclude typical casino games from sports betting because they are considered addictive. The high tax on sports betting (8.5%) makes it harder for investors to introduce more gambling complexes. The deductions cause a relatively higher rake and consequently reduce winning odds. It is, for this reason, many providers leave the market.
Again, the Gambling Act forbids sharing player pools with an international audience. This means French punters can only play with their fellow countrymen in offline betting shops. As a result, licensed providers face liquidity issues because they rely on a restricted local player pool. Higher taxes and a limited player pool cause many French players to explore offshore gambling.
Betting acts in France
France upholds a Christian-Catholic tradition, which explains the general ban on games of chance, as per the Homeland Security Code Article L.320-1. However, a few exemptions have been made over the years to permit certain forms of gambling, such as sports betting. The French gambling laws were revised by the Ordinance of October 2, 2019. This legislation was issued after the reform of PACTE (Action Plan for Growth and Transformation of Enterprises).
Today, online eSports betting is controlled by the Decree 2010-483, enacted on May 12, 2010. The law states that players can only bet on particular sports, results, and competitions directed by L'Autorité Nationale des Jeux, the gaming regulator (ANJ). They can add new sports games after consulting with various sports organizations.
The French law declares that sports event organizers have rights on the kind of competitions they can coordinate. Sports betting companies can only provide bets on games and matches they have agreed with the sports organizers.
Also, licensed eSports operators can only organize bets if they meet the conditions stipulated in Decree 2010-614, enacted on June 7, 2010. On October 14, 2014, the French Supreme Administrative Court confirmed ANJ's decision to cancel bets on game results as even/uneven numbers.