On 6 August 2010, the Court of First Instance in Paris acted urgently in proceedings based on a claim by ARJEL (the new French online gambling regulator). It has ordered French internet service providers to use all appropriate means to block access to a ".com" online gambling site accessible from France (in French language) that did not hold a licence from the ARJEL. (It is reported in the specialised press that, in the mean time, the site now no longer grants access to French players).
This decision is based on the new law of “opening” the gambling and betting market. The new regulation was enacted just before the 2010 Football World Cup in South Africa in response mainly to pressure from EU competition authorities, but also to fight against the numerous overseas online betting and casino sites used by French gamblers.
Until then French law prohibited lotteries and games which are open to the public and involve a “monetary” payment from the participant in return for an expectation of a gain based, even partially, on chance. The main exceptions were, and still are:
i. monopolies on lotteries and betting services granted to specific bodies and, in particular, the state owned Française des Jeux;
ii. licences granted to “brick and mortar” casinos (these casino operations are highly regulated); and
iii. private gaming circles or "cercles de jeux" (which are non-profit-making associations where gaming is only an ancillary activity and also require authorisation from the relevant ministry).
The new regulation authorises:
• online horse and sports betting and
• online poker on ".fr" sites (under the caption "cercles de jeux" )
for entities that have obtained a licence from the ARJEL (Autorité de régulation des Jeux en Ligne ) based on detailed specifications.
The law has been criticised because of its very limited scope and the numerous constraints imposed on the operators. These include deletion of information held by applicants on former French customers (to avoid any springboard effect when entering the market), the routing of French gamblers exclusively to French sites, limitation on gamblers’ returns, taxation and royalties due to the relevant sporting event organisers.
Nonetheless, a number of gambling operators have filed for and obtained a licence for one or several of these activities.