French online poker cash games post biggest gains in six years


france-online-poker-growthFrance’s regulated online gambling market was firing on all cylinders in Q3, with poker posting its strongest growth in nearly six years.

Figures released Friday by French regulator ARJEL show locally licensed online gambling operators handled €549k worth of sports wagers in the three months ending September 30, a 23% rise over the same period last year, while betting revenue was also up 23% year-on-year to €106m.

The year-on-year gains are all the more impressive given that Q3 2016 included both the tail end of the UEFA Euro 2016 football tournament and the Summer Olympic Games in Rio. Weekly active player numbers shot up 26% to 301k, which helped push the quarterly betting revenue total above €100m for the second time this year.

Even without a major football tournament, the sport remains French bettors’ favorite activity, accounting for 60% of Q3 betting stakes. Second-ranked tennis was well back at 25%, while third-ranked basketball scored only 4%, despite basketball wagers rising 58% year-on-year.

Horseracing wagers enjoyed a rare double-digit gain, improving 15% year-on-year to €244m, while racing revenue improved 10% to €60m as weekly active race betting accounts improved 5% to 127k.

This marks the second consecutive quarter that racing stakes have improved, and the pace of growth in Q3 was significantly higher than Q2’s 9% growth. In fact, the vertical hasn’t shown such dramatic growth since the market liberalized in 2010.

ARJEL credited the gains to racing operators’ efforts to launch new simplified products to appeal to new bettors, while improving loyalty programs to retain existing bettors.

On the poker front, overall revenue rose 11% to €58m. After two straight quarters of cash game declines, cash game stakes shot up 8% to €885m, marking the biggest gains French cash games have enjoyed in six years. Cash game revenue improved 5% to €22.1m.

Tournament poker was equally buoyant, with fees rising 10% to €474m and revenue rising 14% to €35.7m. The French market hasn’t seen both poker verticals post simultaneous year-on-year gains since 2011.

Weekly active poker accounts rose 8% to 228k, reversing four straight quarters of decreasing player numbers. Cash games helped goose the numbers, with cash game actives up 12% to 68k, while tournament actives were up 9%. The gains came despite operators’ bonus expenditure falling 9% to €11.9m during Q3.

ARJEL is even more bullish about its rebounding poker market given that its licensed poker operators are still waiting on the starting gun for sharing poker liquidity with the regulated markets of Italy, Portugal and Spain.