The struggling French poker industry has received a boost with the country’s regulator, the Autorité de Régulation des Jeux en Ligne (ARJEL) deciding to share player liquidity with other European countries.
The bill Projet de loi pour une Républiquenumérique (digital bill) will be overturning a 2010 decision made by the regulator to restrict the player pool to those playing within the state’s borders.
The regulator had decided to do this in order to protect the country’s players from overseas gambling operators.
The decision however has had a host of negative repercussions. Poor player participation along with higher prices for players as a result of higher gaming taxes has resulted in declining player interest and lower revenue for French poker operators. Gaming industry data showed a 33-percent drop in cash game revenue within three years, causing several international operators to pull away out of the French market.
The situation has led to many poker players preferring illegal poker sites as they offered better payouts and more action. According to a recent report, 47 percent of online poker players in France frequented illegal poker websites while over 23 percent of them visited them exclusively.
Winamax.fr, the largest online poker site in France is the only site with a seven day average of over 1,000 players. All others including major international brands like PokerStars have been unable to draw a significant player pool, prompting ARJEL to reconsider its stance.
Additionally, ARJEL has been under pressure from a prominent players’ group in France asking the regulator to loosen restrictions.
In May 2016, the regulator therefore decided to introduce an amendment that will open up the poker market to other European countries’ poker markets.With this amendment, players will be able to access other licensed sites within European jurisdiction. French President François Hollande is expected to approve the bill in the next 15 days after which French players will be able to play against European players. The French Senate has already approved the new regulation
Other European countries such as Portugal, Spain and Italy are also exploring opening up player pools given the declining revenues in their industries. A recent meeting was held in Paris where gaming regulators of all large European countries as well as the UK informally discussed the measures that could be taken to boost the gambling markets in their countries, including international sharing of liquidity. A few regulators acknowledged that implementing restrictions had been a mistake.