France’s online gambling ops were record-setters in 2018


france-online-gambling-market-2018France’s online gambling revenue grew by one-quarter in 2018 but the country’s regulator says improvements are needed to ensure these gains continue.

This week, French regulatory authority ARJEL released its Q4 and FY18 reports on the performance of French-licensed online gambling operators. Bottom line: the market continues to post solid growth but “elements of fragility remain and we must not let our guard down.”

In the final three months of 2018, sports betting turnover rose 51% to €1.06b – a quarterly record since the regulated market’s 2010 launch – while betting revenue improved 32% to €215m. The number of weekly active bettors was up 39% to 546k.

Football wagering was up 54% to €663m in Q4, with basketball (€162.7m, +35%) and tennis (€111.4m, +70%) a distant second and third. The quarter’s biggest gainer in percentage terms was volleyball, which more than doubled its betting handle to €18.8m.

For 2018 as a whole, betting turnover was up 56% from 2017 to €3.9b, the biggest annual improvement since the market’s launch, while betting revenue gained 46% to €691m, the first time betting’s annual haul has exceeded the combined contributions of the other verticals.

The gains were undeniably driven by the 2018 FIFA World Cup, but ARJEL says the Q4 numbers are proof that licensed operators’ new customers have stuck around since the tournament’s conclusion (even if the pace of growth appears to be slowing from recent quarters).

Sadly, online poker wasn’t in a similarly expansive mood. Overall poker revenue slipped 1% to €65m in Q4, despite cash game stakes rising 5% to €1.035b and tournament fees rising 5% to €577m. Active weekly players improved 2% to 256k.

The full-year poker totals were somewhat more positive, with revenue up 5% to nearly €258m, cash game stakes up 15% and tournaments up 11%. But tournaments did all the heavy lifting on the revenue front, rising 11.4% to €170.1m, while cash game revenue fell 5.5% to €87.6m. Tournaments accounted for 66% of poker spending last year, 10 points higher than in 2015.

The traditionally struggling horseracing sector continued to show signs of life in Q4, with online betting stakes nudging up 2% to €275m while revenue rose 1% to €67m. For the year as a whole, race betting stakes and revenue each improved 5% to €1.05b and €256m, respectively, marking the second straight year of annual growth.

France’s overall online market revenue was up more than one-quarter to €1.205b in 2018, while the number of active bettors shot up 40%. Average spend per bettor was down more than 10% in 2018, which ARJEL credited to timid first-timers drawn by the World Cup frenzy.

While the overall numbers remain positive, ARJEL warned of “fragility” if the government doesn’t follow through on its pledge to rethink its online tax regime. French sports betting operators currently pay 5.7% of turnover but ARJEL says a reasonable tax rate on betting revenue would help ‘align’ the French market with the majority of its European counterparts.