Casinos could be coming to more French cities as cash-strapped municipal governments look for new revenue streams.
As in other markets, the French casino industry struggled in the wake of the 2008 global economic downturn. But net casino revenue in France rose 2.2% to €2.2b in 2015, the first positive growth in seven years. With momentum behind it, the casino industry – and local government – is thinking expansion.
Jean-Claude Gaudin, mayor of Marseilles, announced this week that the city was opening a public tender for the development of a casino. Gaudin has commissioned studies that show a local casino could create 500 jobs and contribute €10m in annual tax revenue to the city’s budget.
Gaudiin is looking to emulate cities like Deauville, where the municipal government derives 30% of its budget from casino taxes. Other French towns rely on gaming operations for as much as 80% of their tax revenue.
Domestic operators such as JOA, Barriere and Partouche are reportedly keen on winning the Marseilles concession. Partouche already has a project in the works in the adjacent city of La Ciotat but is still interested in acquiring a presence within Marseilles itself.
For over a century, French casinos have been relegated to “thermal spa tourism destinations and beach resorts.” Subsequent laws permitted Barriere to open a casino on the outskirts of Paris but gaming venues remained off-limits within the city of lights.
Nonetheless, smaller cercles de jeux gaming halls – including the famous Aviation Club de France poker venue – proliferated in Paris until the authorities began shutting these down a few years ago. But the ensuing loss of tax revenue caused the French government to announce last June that it was considering allowing Paris to open members-only gambling clubs similar to high-end venues in London.
Unlike London’s high-roller gambling clubs, many French casinos boast a diversified revenue stream similar to those in Las Vegas. JOA chairman Laurent Lassiaz told Reuters that half of the space at his company’s 22 casinos was dedicated to non-gaming amenities. Lassiaz said the goal was to have the clientele view the casinos “more as leisure centers.” Don’t forget municipal life savers.