August 17 – French online poker is off to a great start, with the rapidly expanding market already making up nearly five percent of the global poker industry. With this rapidly expanding enterprise, industry analysts are becoming concerned that the poker waters in France could become infested with foreign sharks, curbing demand in this expanding market.
Since the French regulating division ARJEL, or the Authority of Regulation of Online Games, allowed licensees to begin serving the French online poker market on July 1st, a total of 27 licenses have been issued. In one month, 5 of the top 25 online poker providers worldwide are French. (According to PokerScout.com)
While the numbers show the vibrancy of poker in France, a decision by ARJEL has observers concerned about its continued growth. French poker players are only allowed to visit licensed French poker rooms, but foreign players are allowed to do so as well. This “one-sided partitioning” means that the fledgling market is susceptible to sharks, possibly jeopardizing the balance of the player pool.
Director of Everest Poker France, Sandrine Mangia-Park, recently was quoted as saying, “Ultimately, this (one-sided partitioning) could contribute to creating an imbalance that demotivates French players [at the] beginners or intermediate level. [This] we anticipated [before] our launch. Thus, during the registration process EverestPoker.fr, we ask all players to enter their address in France, which effectively bans non-French residents to open an account and play on Everestpoker.fr.”
The dangers presented by foreign sharks in the French poker market are clear. Jake Pollard of iGamingFrance wrote, “In the short term it does not present major problems: the non-French players coming from [foreign sites] are not banned and the taxes are paid. However, novice players will quickly disenchanted and if the trend spreads, eco-systems of online poker rooms, the balance between ‘fish’ and ‘sharks’ necessary to create good liquidity, will only get worse . This also causes an outflow of funds out of France and less money circulating between players from France.”
This one-sided partitioning has not yet become a critical issue, but poker rooms like Everest and the oversight of ARJEL will help prevent such a situation from occurring. The growth of the French online poker market depends on continued participation from players of all skill levels.