Yet another amendment to the French draft legislation on gambling currently being debated by the National Assembly is creating waves in the industry.
The amendment, which the Assembly has approved, requires those Internet companies applying for licenses when the liberalisation of the French market comes into effect in 2010 to close the accounts of French residents on their playerbases, effectively making them start afresh.
The French penchant for discriminatory clauses is again noticeable in the amendment, because it does not apply to the existing monopoly companies, the Pari Mutuel Urbain(PMU) and the Française des Jeux (FDJ)
Analysts have pointed out that the selective requirement could prejudice online operators who already have substantial business from French gamblers, and will face up to a six months hiatus between shutting down their French accounts and being able to operate under licence in France.
This will give FdeJ and PMU, who are not shackled by similar restrictions, a competitive advantage, especially if they launch online sportsbetting and poker room facilities.
The European Gaming and Betting Association, which speaks for most of the major European online gambling companies, deplored the amendment as a protectionist tactic designed to give the existing monopolies a substantial edge.
The draft and its amendments have yet to receive the approval of the French Senate, but if this is forthcoming it will reveal the true intention of the French draft on liberalisation, which is to prevent EU-licensed operators from prospering in the French market and give the existing monopolies an unfair advantage, opined EGBA secretary general Sigrid Ligne.