France’s online gambling market was firing on all cylinders in the final quarter of 2019, led by a dramatic surge in sports betting revenue.
Figures released Monday by France’s online gambling regulator ARJEL show locally licensed online sportsbooks handled wagers worth €1.5b in the final three months of 2019, a 42% rise from Q4 2018 and a new quarterly record. Betting revenue rose by a more modest 7% to €230m as total return to players (counting bonuses) rose 5.3 points to 86.7%.
The surge came from the number of registered bettors rising nearly one-quarter to 1.92m, while weekly active bettors shot up 32% to 720k, thanks in part to bonus offers rising 76% to €30m. For 2019 as a whole, betting turnover was up 30% to a record €5b while revenue rose 27% to €880m, also a record.
The much-derided sport of kings also enjoyed positive traction in Q4, albeit at a more reasonable level. Race betting turnover and stakes were both up 7% to €294m and €72m, respectively, despite bonus offers falling 38% to €5.5m. For the year as a whole, racing stakes gained 5% to €1.1b while revenue rose 6% to €271m.
The much-maligned online poker vertical defied expectations by posting an 18% revenue gain to €76m in Q4, with cash games up 9% to €23m and tournaments rising 22% to €53m. Bonus offers were up 36% to €20m, resulting in weekly active players rising 13% to 288k. Full-year poker revenue rose 6% to €272m, with cash games up 1% to €88m and tournaments gaining 8% to €184m.
The French government’s tax take from Q4’s gambling surge was equally outsized, with €139m from betting (60.4% of revenue), €38.5m from racing (53.4%) and €23m from poker (30.2%). For the year as a whole, the government’s tax haul from sports betting alone shot up nearly 30% to €470m.
Hence the enormous sighs of relief last December when the government announced a switch from the onerous tax on betting turnover to a more traditional revenue-based scheme on January 1, 2020.
This marks the final quarterly report from ARJEL, which will be replaced this spring by the country’s new L’autorité Nationale des Jeux (ANJ) with responsibility for overseeing both online and land-based gambling sectors. The ANJ will be headed up by Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, who currently heads up the country’s National Commission for Data Protection.