Winamax sports betting tweet earns rebuke from French gambling regulator


French online gambling operator Winamax has been put on notice by local regulators over an ill-advised tweet that critics found homophobic.

This past Saturday saw French footballers Olympique de Lyon vanquish Manchester City in a UEFA Champions League quarter-final. With French club Paris St-Germain facing off against RB Leipzig in a semi-final match on Tuesday, the prospect of an all-French final loomed large.

The official Twitter feed of Winamax’s sports betting division tweeted out an altered image of French hip hop group PNL, superimposing the two French clubs’ logos over the faces of the two brothers who make up PNL. The accompanying text featured a riff on the lyrics to PNL’s song Celsius that were altered to read ‘we take Europe, we f**k two.’

The tweet contained language that is viewed by some in France as a homosexual slur, which prompted no shortage of social media pushback. Among those slamming the company’s ill-chosen words were France’s Minister of Sports Roxana Maracineanu, who compared the WinamaxSport tweet to ‘vomit.’

Another French pol, LREM MP Olga Givernet, wrote a letter to Prime Minister Jean Castex asking him to “react without delay” to the tweet by suspending Winamax’s right to offer gambling in the country.

Initially, at least, WinamaxSport’s social media manager appeared to be enjoying the outrage, responding to one critic’s query as to how he was enjoying his ‘last working day’ by saying he was being “paid double on top.”

Some observers noted that Winamax was being slammed for its use of the lyric while the PNL duo’s original had somehow escaped similar censure. This led to suggestions that Winamax’s critics were feigning outrage simply because the tweet was associated with football.  

On Tuesday, France’s new gambling regulator L’Autorité Nationale des Jeux (ANJ) issued a statement saying that its initial read of the brouhaha was that the tweet “does not appear to constitute grounds for suspension” of Winamax’s license.

However, the regulator warned that “given the risks of incitement to gambling for minors that such communication can entail, the ANJ will be particularly vigilant in monitoring the promotional strategy that Winamax will submit to it next October.” ANJ added that it would be “particularly welcome” if Winamax “immediately” deleted the offending tweet.

Winamax ultimately complied by deleting the tweet, although the company appeared determined to go down swinging, saying it had decided to remove its “‘shocking’, ‘abject’ and unbearable tweet.” The words in quotes were a direct reference to the letter Givernet sent to the PM seeking the suspension of the company’s license.