A Quarter Of French Poker Players Play On Illegal WebsitesFebruary 14, 2014 5:06 pm
A recent study conducted by the French Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT) and the Observatory of games (ODJ) has discovered that an astounding 23.5% of French online poker players play on websites not regulated by the country’s gambling regulator ARJEL.
Almost since France’s online poker industry was regulated in 2010 it has been in steady decline and 2013’s financial report revealed a huge 13% drop in revenues to €258 million compared to the €297 million generated a year earlier. Of particular interest is the dramatic decline in cash game poker which was down by 18% last year, with former ARJEL President Jean François Vilotte blaming the downward trend on online poker professionals either leaving France or playing on illegal online poker rooms. The latest study’s findings now clearly demonstrates the size of the problem facing the French online gaming market.
During his tenure as ARJEL President, Jean-François Vilotte had previously warned the French government about the need to make the country’s online poker industry more attractive to players, but after his words were largely ignored, he eventually left office earlier this year.
At the heart of the problem is the fact the French government taxes every pot played at 2% regardless of whether a flop is seen or not, which ultimately works out to a 37% tax on gross gaming revenue. Having to contend with the highest tax rate of any regulated country
has meant operators have had to pass on the higher rate of doing business to players, ultimately leading them to abandon regulated sites in favour of illegal, more attractive sites on the gray market.
Frances two biggest online poker operators are Winamax and PokerStars France, although most of the main European rooms and networks are also represented, including PartyPoker and iPoker. Even though the French government insists ISPs for unlicensed sites must be blocked, apparently the order has been ineffective and so ARJEL has taken to spreading fear via an ad campaign highlighting the dangers of gambling on unlicensed poker sites.
“The theft of personal and bank data and problems when trying to cash winnings are among the main issues players may incur by playing on non-licensed operators,” warned the ad.
Nevertheless, the ad campaign is not only largely inaccurate but is also likely to be highly ineffectual. In fact, the French government would likely find more success if it heeded the advice of its previous ARJEL President Jean-François Vilotte, who said:
“Poker is going through a difficult time, but this is not something that is happening only in France, as Spain and Italy are experiencing a similar trend as well. Seen from a broader perspective, this is a problem of legalized markets competing against non-legalized ones. If legalized markets won’t learn how to become more flexible and adjust themselves quicker to what people want, they will keep doing the work for illegal websites and help them to win against their legal competitors.”