French authorities are evaluating the possibility of a legislative reform that would lead to the opening of a casino in Paris.
Only six months after the French Judicial Police raided and closed the world-famous Aviation Club de France and the Cercle Cadet, the Ministry of Internal Affairs asked the prefect Jean-Pierre Duport to prepare a study on the benefits and disadvantages of a casino in France's capital city.
According to France's daily Le Parisien, the study should be completed by the end of April, and should define whether gaming in Paris should be put in the hands of a casino, or should be handled by a network of "cercles," gaming rooms similar to the ones shut down during the past months.
France To Reform Its Gambling Legislation
Whether Duport's study will suggest the opening of Paris' first casino or the restoration of the cercles, it is safe to assume that gambling will be a hot topic in France in the months to come.
"The legal status of the cercle and the way some them conducted their operations have contributed to the emergence of various illegal practices and frauds," an unnamed source told Le Parisien.
"The time of opacity is over," the source continued. "Today, the challenge of Duport's mission is to create a transparent and controlled offer of gambling games," and this could be done by either creating a casino in Paris, or by reviewing the legislation imposed to the cercles.
From a legislative standpoint, however, both solutions will imply a significant activity from the legislator, as the launch of a casino in Paris would require a complete overhaul of the current legislation.
Back in 1907, the French government approved a bill that authorized the opening of brick-and-mortar casinos "exclusively in thermal spa tourism destinations and beach resorts." Almost a decade later, however, the same legislator decided to vote in favor of a stricter norm that banned "gambling games within 100 kilometers of Paris."
The law was amended some 20 years later, when the Barriére Group got the permission to operate a casino in Enghien-les-Bains, a spa destination located only 11 kilometers North of Paris. To date, the Barriére casino in Enghien-les-Bains claims to be the only one in the world that asks its visitors to pay a ticket in order to simply access the building.
Similarly, the restoration of the cercles would impose a number of legislative changes, as the country's authorities believe that the current legislation is not sufficient to guarantee the level of transparency desired.
€30 Million Business for the State
Although the one in Paris would become the 200th casino in the country, all the major players in the gambling industry have immediately understood how this could be a game changer for the entire sector.
After the closure of most cercles in Paris left the Cercle Clichy as the only gaming room operating in a city with 2.2 million inhabitants and almost 30 million tourists a year, the casinos in Enghien-les Bains and Deauville became the only choice for Parisians seeking for a place to play poker, table games, and slots.
"Once the police raided and closed the ACF and the Cadet, everyone moved to the Cercle Clichy in Montmartre, which has an authorization to operate for one more year," PKR pro Patty Beaumier told PokerNews during the European Poker Tour played in Deauville in January.
"I used to play there also before all that happened, and I can tell you that we have never had as many players as we do now," he added. "These days, you can have even 50 people on the waiting list to sit at the room's cash games."
Baumier also hinted at the possibility of a casino being in Paris' future, as she stated that "rumors say that the ACF and the Cadet were closed because a big group may be trying to open a brick-and-mortar casino in Paris."
If proven correct, however, the rumors mentioned by Beaumier would have a significant impact in Barriére's revenues, as the company that manages the casinos in Enghien-les-Bains and in Deauville would suddenly have to deal with a new competitor that a study quoted by the French media believe could generate tax revenues of €30 million for the State and the city of Paris.
This number, according to the daily Les Echos, is the reason why the city of Paris did not take an official position on the issue yet as the possibility to generate new revenues through the opening of a casino seems to have convinced the Socialist Major of Paris Anne Hidalgo not to oppose the project.
Should the administration vote against a casino in Paris, however, a new Las Vegas-style casino could be built in Roissy-en-France, the municipality located only 20.7 kilometers from the center of France's capital. According to an article published on PokerNews.fr, Roissy is currently evaluating the inclusion of a casino in a big development project that is set to create a brand new business and conference center right next to Paris' first international airport, Charles de Gaulle.
The project in Roissy, which the local administration hopes to see completed by 2018, that the complex to be built in the city should include offices for 13,000 square meters, commercial spaces for 10,000 square meters, a golf course, and a 45,000-square meter hotel, which would also feature a casino. Should the legislator decide to amend the law that prohibits the organization of gambling games close to Paris.
A strong opposition to the idea of a casino in Paris or in Roissy, however, came from Georges Tranchant, the founder of the Groupe Tranchant, a gambling group that manages 19 brick-and-mortar casinos in France, Switzerland, and Dominican Republic.
"The position of the operators is very simple," Tranchant said. "If we open a Las Vegas-style casino in Paris, we kill the industry."