Online poker has struggled mightily in France over the past few years, and a recent financial report released by the France’s gambling regulator ARJEL showed that revenues took another significant hit in 2013.
This week's report by the ARJEL revealed that gross gaming revenues from online cash games dipped 13% to €258 million in 2013, with revenues in the fourth quarter of the year down 12% to €65 million. iGamingBusiness reports that stakes for online poker tournaments were up 5%, but it was not enough to make up for the drop in cash game numbers.
Many licensed operators in France support blame the current gambling laws as the reason behind the considerable online poker decline. Currently, French players are restricted from playing opponents located outside the country and are only offered two games by operators. Jean-François Vilotte, who stepped down as president of the ARJEL this month after four years at the helm, had been calling for changes to the law that would allow for more games, as well as shared liquidity with other regulated European markets such as Spain and Italy.
"We have to pay attention to three things," Vilotte told PokerNews in December. "First, that there is a sufficient number of games to be played, as the current regulation allows only Texas hold'em and Omaha. Second, that we carefully think about the liquidity aspect, especially if it refers to a single country. And third, taxation."
However, during a hearing at the French National Assembly last month, French Parliament ruled against a shared liquidity law, adding another obstacle for the industry to overcome. Razzy Hammadi, the Rapporteur of the Committee on Economic Affairs, claimed that European shared liquidity would "turn online poker into an uncontrollable ogre eating one market after the other."
Global Poker Index owner Alex Dreyfus, who hails from France, called the argument ridiculous. "The increase of liquidity, meaning the share of liquidity, would generate higher taxes and more winnings for the players. So, eventually, it would be a win-win situation," he said.
Some of the licensed online poker sites in France include Winamax.fr, PokerStars.fr, PartyPoker.fr and iPoker.fr. According to PokerScout.com, Winamax is the leader in the French market, averaging 1,700 real-money cash game players over a seven-day window. PokerStars is second with an average of 1,350.