The UK Gambling Commission may be removed from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s purview following the London 2012 Summer Olympics, according to rumors some little birdie told InterGame. Apparently, there’s no love lost between the Commission and the DCMS, so the thought is to separate the pair before there’s some kind of friendly fire incident. There’s as yet no indication just which umbrella the Gambling Commission might eventually find itself under, although speculation centers on either the Home Office or the Treasury.
French pari-mutuel betting operator France Pari has been granted a fixed-odds and in-running betting license by national regulator ARJEL. The company released a statement confirming that the new offering – “coupled with one of the highest sign-up bonuses available and a generous loyalty programme” – would be available in April. Earlier this month, France Pari announced it was teaming up with Groupe Partouche on the re-launch of a UK-facing sportsbook, Livebetting.com.
The much-maligned French gaming market is showing signs of life, at least, according to figures revealed by ARJEL execs at the iGaming France conference in Paris this week. Year-to-date figures through March 20 show sports betting wagers up 11% and horseracing up 15%. Poker cash bets declined 3%, but tournament buy-ins rose 28%. The sports betting figure is a significant turnaround from Q4 2011, which showed a 23% decline in wagers.
But ARJEL’s figures show that companies have been resorting to some desperate measures to shock the patient back to life. Bonuses and friend referrals had risen to 50% of marketing costs, which even ARJEL president Jean-Francois Vilotte admits “is something the companies can’t sustain for long.” But Vilotte defended the French system’s onerous 7.5% tax on internet betting, reminding execs that the country’s gaming laws were devised primarily with the goal of protecting consumers, not enriching gambling companies.
PokerStars France director Alexis Laipsker struck a more pessimistic tone, describing the level of growth in the French market as “not much.” Gambling Compliance quoted Laipsker as saying things were so bad, Stars CEO Isai Scheinberg had talked about following the lead of so many other online gaming outfits by pulling out of the market. Barriére Poker’s Johnathan Strock said he thinks French authorities are starting to grasp there will be no dramatic improvements until there was some change in the French gaming laws. “It’s not in the interest of the French market if the market dies. I think they realize they will do what it takes to make it better.”