France is located in central Europe. It borders Andorra and Spain to the south-west, the Bay of Biscay to the west, the English Channel to the north, Belgium and Luxembourg to the north-east, Germany to the east, Switzerland and Italy to the south-east and the Balearic Sea to the south.
Every type of land-based gambling…
… is legal in France, and this is part of why they have been so open about regulating every type of online gambling as well.
The key legislation in regard to this segment of the gambling industry was passed and enforced back in 2010 – the Gambling Act. While it marked the start of the regulated interactive online gambling industry, it further contributed to limiting the market volume that would actually be available to players in France.
Specifically, the regulative permitted players to enjoy online poker, sports betting and horse race betting activities, mainly on the grounds that they are games of skill.
Contrary to this, games that are based on the element of luck or chance…
… are alternately banned under the letter of the same law. Casino games, table and club games, with the exception of poker, as well as slots titles and betting exchanges have thus been prohibited from licensing under the French jurisdiction.
Certain offshore operators do target the French marketplace, despite harsh regulations and an official authoritative body.
ARJEL, as it is known…
… is the regulatory body for online gaming activities that sets up and enforces provisions for proper industry operations.
It issues licenses for all three forms of gambling legalized in the country, and enforces bans wherever applicable. Nevertheless, unlicensed operators are constantly discovering ways to reach the player pool, to both their benefits.
In fact, it is the licensed online operators that face obstacles when catering to the French player pool. The main problem with online gambling in France is that it's taxed at a particularly high rate. In poker, in particular, players staged massive sit-outs at the tables of segregated sites (French players weren’t allowed to play with foreigners on regulated sites), which got the attention of officials and led to the changing of the tax and rake structure of the games.
Still, by mid-2014, it was evident that the market’s maturity and need for improvement was a far greater factor than the ones considered so far.
Hence, through a range of drafts, discussions and ultimately proper legislations since 2017, poker sites were allowed to introduce shared player pools that launched French players among those from Spain, Italy, Portugal and eventually, the UK.
Initial reports showed that this has had an overall positive effect on operators and the respective player pools, and only seems to be progressing even further.
Licensing is extremely valuable in France because of the high level of priority that they put on making sure that the sites that become licensed are legitimate. One thing about licensing that used to put licensed sites at a disadvantage is that player pools weren’t allowed to be shared with foreign sites. This hurt poker sites in particular because a larger player pool was necessary to keep a healthy ecosystem of players. Combined with the fact that offshore unlicensed operators were roaming freely, offering their services to the player base without any tax or fee charges to the state, ht onshore platforms were definitely disadvantaged.
The situation improved greatly with the shared player pools, officially marked by the first PokerStars platform combining poker players from France, Spain, Portugal and Italy. Since then, licensing has become less of an obligation, and more of a privilege for operators interested in servicing this marketplace.
Because licensing is taken so seriously and with such a high level of restriction…
… there are high levels of player protections for online gambling in France.
There's a lot of concern about making sure that people who exhibit problem gambling tendencies are given opportunities to get help, and there are easy-to-use methods for following up with complaints or inquiries against licensed sites. Though it's legal for players to play with unlicensed sites, those protections do not extend to those sites.
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