French illegal gambling worth up to €1.5bn per year

By Richard Mulligan

France’s illegal gambling market could be worth up to €1.5bn (£1.28bn/$1.62bn), which would account for more than 10% of the total wagered across the country each year.

Research published by the French gambling regulator l’Autorité Nationale des Jeux (ANJ) identified 510 illegal websites generating traffic. Of these, 21 alone were estimated to generate 60% of illegal gambling traffic.

The study, carried out by PwC, estimates that the gross gaming revenue (GGR) generated by illegal gambling is between €748m and €1.5bn. This makes up between 5% and 11% of the total gambling market, which was worth a record €12.9bn in 2022.

High-risk gamblers account for majority

Concerningly, 79% of the gross gaming revenue (GGR) generated by the illegal online gambling market comes from high-risk gamblers. The study found that the main motivations for players to participate in illegal gambling include the absence of wagering limits or identity checks. These players are also attracted by the expectation of higher winnings and the greater range of games available.

Half of the illegal gambling websites whose operators have been identified are owned by companies registered in Curaçao, the study found. Online casino games and slot machines are estimated to account for 50% of illegal online gambling traffic.

ANJ said it commissioned the study to measure illegal online gambling and gain a better understanding of consumption patterns. The study was carried out from January to March 2023 and included a web panel comprising over 11,000 participants.

“The scale and risks associated with illegal gambling justify even more vigorous measures to combat it, in addition to those already being taken by the ANJ,” said an ANJ spokesperson.

ANJ unveils action plan to target illegal gambling

France has 18 ANJ-licensed operators and the FDJ which can legally offer online gambling. ANJ said those that are unlicensed rarely pay out winnings and do not protect minors and other vulnerable people.

While ANJ has blocked more than 300 websites in the last year, it said it will now take a series of actions.

Firstly, it will make reports to the authorities so that proceedings can be brought against those in Curaçao or Cyprus running these sites. These “currently operate with complete impunity and which the ANJ itself is unable to punish,” it said.

ANJ will also take action to warn publishers of software and those who provide hosting solutions for illegal sites. Action will also be taken against payment service providers that facilitate financial flows between illegal operators and players.

ANJ plans to enhance the exchange of information and best practices with its European counterparts through the GREF. Finally, it will also seek to raise public awareness of the dangers of illegal gambling.

French gambling’s record year in 2022

France’s gambling market saw record GGR of €12.9bn during 2022, which was up 20% year-on-year.

A total of €2.17bn in GGR came from online gambling. This consisted of €1.38bn in online sports betting, €442m in online poker and €346m in online horse racing bets.

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