France’s gaming regulator, L’Autorité Nationale des Jeux (ANJ), has been busy since it took over from ARJEL (the Autorité de régulation des jeux en ligne, or online gaming regulator). The handover took place a couple of months ago as the country looked to consolidate its gaming oversight, paving the way for a singular federal authority and tapping political leader Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin to become ANJ’s first president. Ticking off another item on its long checklist of tasks at hand, the regulator announced this week that it has given approval to ten online sportsbooks to keep their licenses. It also welcomed a new player into the space, as well.
Online gambling launched in France a decade ago, and the industry has enjoyed a modest amount of success since then. Licenses are issued for five years, and this program will continue until everyone decides that different licensing periods are warranted. There are now 14 sports gambling license holders in the country, including a newcomer to the space looking to grab some of the action controlled by the others. NJJ Project Thirteen targets sports gambling and horse racing, and will operate under the GényBet brand.
In total, between sports gambling, horse racing and online gambling, France has issued 19 licenses, with some operators holding more than one license. The list includes B.E.S. SAS (operator of bwin.fr and partypoker.fr), Betclic Enterprises Ltd (betclic.fr), France Pari (France-pari.fr and feelingbet.fr), Project Thirteen, GM Gaming Ltd. (betway.fr), Joaonline (joaclub.fr, joa-club.fr, joa-online.fr and joaonline.fr), La Française des Jeux (parionsweb.fr, parionsweb.fdj.fr and enligne.parionssport.fdj.fr), Netbet FR SAS (netbet.fr and netbetsport.fr), Pari Mutuel Urbain (pmu.fr), Reel Malta Ltd. (pokerstars.fr, pokerstarsmobile.fr, betstars.fr and pokerstarssports.fr), SPS Betting France Ltd. (Unibet.fr), Vivaro Ltd., (vbet.fr, pasinobet.fr and barrierebet.fr), Winamax (Winamax.fr) and Zeturf France Ltd., (zeturf.fr and zebet.fr).
Vivaro is a subsidiary of BetConstruct, managing its B2C operations. The barrierebet.fr website was an addition to its portfolio approved by ANJ, and comes through a partnership with Groupe Barriere, a French hotel and leisure company.
Licensees are required to adhere to a framework of strict controls in order to retain their operations in France. ANJ pays close attention to things like player protection, sports integrity, safe advertising and more, and infractions, depending on their severity, could lead to the regulator deciding not to approve a license renewal. With the renewal of the licenses, the operators have been given an overall clean bill of health, although ANJ won’t wander away too far. Pari-Mutuel Urbain was slapped with a massive $1-million fine by ARJEL just ahead of the handover, and ANJ will want to make sure that it, as well as everyone else, plays by the rules.
Online gaming continues to draw larger crowds in France. This year, it was given a boost because of the COVID-19-forced lockdowns everywhere, and online gross gaming revenue in the country saw a modest uptick. ANJ states that, across the first half of the year, online gaming GGR came in at €758 million ($893.15 million), for an 8% year-on-year increase.