France to consider opening to online betting

„I don’t have to welcome foreign operators, the State did it.“ Patrick Partouche summarized in one line the situation of the online gaming conference that considered the opening conditions of gambling in France.

In France, many people from various sectors cohabit in the same place, namely: operators of French casinos who are not allowed to operate online games in France by the present law; managers of foreign companies operating online bets illegally on the territory; managers from the Home Office and Ministry of Budget; consultants at l’Elysée; members of the Parliament, thus former ministers; on top of lawyers.

The recently held round table even permitted to see at the gallery, out of five speakers, Philippe Marini, UMP senator of Oise and rapporteur-général of the Budget to the Senate, particularly well surrounded, Emmanuel de Rohan-Chabot, questioned for illegal activity of Zeturf in France.

Besides, Patrick Partouche, chairman of the eponymous group, who was given a suspended sentence upon the first instance to serve one year prison and was fined 40000 euros for „complicity to run a gambling house where the public is freely admitted“ and Christophe Dhaisne, general manager of Unibet Group for Western Europe, whose CEO had been deported from the Netherlands exactly one year ago, under a European arrest warrant delivered by a magistrate of Nanterre, for “illicit lotteries, taking illegal bets on horse races and illicit lottery advertising”.

The assistant manager of Michèle Alliot-Marie’s office, Alexandre Jevakhoff, was also present and was able to appreciate the extent of the lawless state currently prevailing in France in the online gambling sector. Besides, the list of participants to the conference looked like a directory of illegal websites being run or on the verge of being run in France.

The most singular characteristic of this situation being that, contrary to what one might think, everything is done to prevent national operators from growing, thus making the bed for foreign actors. It can be assumed that in any country where laws are applied, anyone running illegally a betting website would not have ventured in such an event for fear of being arrested. Some might say that France is a hosting country.

On 23 November the appeal trial of Patrick Partouche will take place. In 2007, the prosecutor, representing the State, reminded during the hearing that “the law in France does not allow private operators to offer online gambling”. As the law did not change since, it will be interesting to see which closing speech will be given. It can be assumed that the prosecution will firstly seek advice with the Ministry of Justice.

In the meantime, Patrick Partouche should have launched his own online gambling and betting website. After several hypes, the general manager of Groupe Partouche seems to be determined this time to fight competition on his own territory, with the same weapons. “If they bring me to court to have my website closed, the others will have to close too. In gambling, this is called a coup forcé“, he stated in 20 Minutes, the free daily. Of course, the foreign operators do not pay any tax or company tax to the State. This was highlighted by Patrick Partouche, who reminded that their French competitors at Bercy have to pay 58% tax. The website, based in Gibraltar, will be open to French players in two weeks.