French Online Poker Liquidity Absent From Digital Bill Draft

October 14th, 2015 | by Kaycee James
ARJEL President Charles Coppolani is calling for French online poker liquidity to be included in a new law, but time is running out for politicians to accept his plea. (Image: numerama.com)

French online poker has largely underachieved since the country approved the Gambling Act in 2010, the 20th most populous country quickly realizing that adequate player participation is vital to the game’s success not only at land-based venues but also Internet casinos.

Operators in France have pointed to the country’s player liquidity exclusion as the primary culprit for iPoker’s feeble performance and have called on the National Assembly to take steps to loosen the market’s quarantined nature.

The Projet de loi pour une République numérique, or Bill for a Digital Republic for non-French speakers, was supposed to address concerns raised by ARJEL, the official regulatory authority of online gaming.

Unfortunately, the latest language in the bill’s draft is free of any amendments that would allow French poker operators to share player pools with international countries.

French Press On

The Bill for a Digital Republic (Digital Bill) covers a wide array of issues facing the country in the high-tech 21st century.

From net neutrality and guaranteed Internet connections for all, to the right to recover digital files and the right to a “digital death,” the bill deals with a batch of online topics and how they should each be regulated.

ARJEL President Charles Coppolani campaigned for the Digital Bill to include player liquidity reforms in late April, and though Christian Eckert, secretary of state for the budget, claimed he would include such provisions, the latest draft he released this week has omitted those verbal pledges.

Coppolani is seeking the power to negotiate shared liquidity agreements with other countries that have legalized online poker, and wishes to do so free of additional governmental approval. “It is from this perspective, rather than a sectoral approach, that we want to treat poker,” Eckert said last February.

Hope Remains

In what’s being billed as an “unprecedented” move, lawmakers in Paris are opening up the Digital Bill for input from the public before officially sending the legislation into law in 2016.

“We are opening a new page in the history of our democracy because this is the first time in our country and in Europe that a draft law has been opened up to contributions by citizens,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls said in late September.

The Assembly will accept proposed modifications to the statute up until October 18th.

The Commission for the Assessment and Control (CEC) will also review specific gambling policies dictated by the Digital Bill sometime in the coming days.

Adding specific clauses to allow ARJEL to entice legitimate international players to its French online poker rooms presumably depends on the results of the CEC deliberations.

Valls said his constituents opened the floor to the general public to ease growing tensions among citizens and their distrust of politicians. Many of those same people are also likely tired of finding inadequate online card rooms.

Cash game traffic has been spiraling downwards for more than three years, with overall revenues suffering and tournaments failing to meet guarantees.

Winamax and PokerStars, the two leading networks in France, both experienced overlays in $1 million guarantee events as recently as September.

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