BUSINESS

Struggling French online gambling licensees lose €5m in 2015

TAGs: arjel, France

france-online-gambling-market-lossesFrance’s regulated online gambling market remained ugly for its licensed operators in 2015, according to new figures from gaming regulator ARJEL.

The headline figure in ARJEL’s account of 2015’s market performance is the €5m operating loss collectively posted by French-licensed operators. Of all the verticals, only racing generated an operating surplus (€10m), while sportsbook and poker operators each lost around €7m.

Racing was also the only vertical in which a majority of operators (five of eight) posted an operating profit in 2015. Only five of the 11 sports betting operators reported an operating profit, while seven of the nine poker licensees reported an operating loss.

Since the regulated market’s launch in 2010, French-licensed operators have posted a total operating loss of €471m. Sports betting led the loss parade with €222m, followed by poker (€206m) and racing (€43m).

With profitability “still not at the rendezvous six years after” the regulated market launch, ARJEL suggested the keys to righting the ship were tax reform, permitting licensees to offer a wider variety of online products and shared poker liquidity with other European regulated markets.

SPORTS GOOD, RACING AND POKER BAD
Sports betting turnover hit a record €1.44b (+30%) in 2015 despite the lack of a marquee sporting event. This momentum shows no signs of letting up, as turnover in H1 2016 has already hit €1.1b, a 60% rise over the same period last year thanks to the UEFA Euro 2016 tourney. Sports revenue hit €270m, up 19% from 2014 and 240% more than 2010, the regulated market’s first year of existence.

Football remained the single most popular wagering sport in 2015 at 53%, although this was down from 73% in 2014, a FIFA World Cup year. Tennis wagering rose four points to 20%, followed by basketball (11%) and rugby (4%), while hockey and volleyball tied at 2% apiece.

French online poker activity has mirrored that of other European regulated markets, with overall spending falling 4% to €232m. Cash games were down 14% to €101m, the same rate of decline in 2014. But tournament stakes rose 14% to €131m, improving on 2014’s 6% rise. Active player ranks were down 4.4% to 235k, well off the market’s peak of 300k in 2011.

Horseracing turnover and revenue fell for the third straight year. Racing turnover amounted to just over €1b, down 2% year-on-year, although the decline was less than the 7% in 2014. Regardless, 2015’s turnover was the lowest in the regulated market’s history. Racing revenue was €254m, virtually unchanged from 2014.

The number of active weekly racing bettors had been relatively stable since 2011, meaning that punters who continue to wager on the ponies are now wagering smaller amounts. But H1 2016 has seen active customers swoon, resulting in a 10% decrease in racing stakes. Worryingly, ARJEL said this decline wasn’t the result of Euro 2016 distractions, as the biggest decline came in April, well before the tournament kicked off.

In 2011, only 12% of all French online wagering took place via mobile devices. In 2015, that figure had jumped for all verticals, led by sports betting (53%), poker (46%) and horseracing (36%).

At the end of December 2015, there were 16 ARJEL-licensed operators holding a total of 29 licenses (11 sports, 10 poker and eight horseracing). By the end of H1 2016, there were also 29 licenses, although the makeup was now 12 sports and nine poker.

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