Online poker in France looks set to receive a shot in the arm thanks to a new liquidity sharing bill, but it could be too little too late for the struggling economy.
The French online poker scene is one that’s often in the media for all the wrong reasons, but finally the country’s grinders have something to smile about.
Ever since the government passed iGaming regulation in 2010, the reports from the industry’s governing body, ARJEL , have been less than impressive.
Crippling taxation and a lack of liquidity have resulted in falling revenues and shuttered sites. In fact, according to the latest quarterly report, online poker revenue was down by €17.3 million ($19.7 million) compared to the previous three months of operation.
Unfortunately, this story of steep losses is one that’s plagued the poker economy in France since 2010, but things could be about to change thanks to the approval of a bill that would all international player pool sharing.
Until now poker sites operating in France have been cut off from the rest of the poker community and forced to work with a limited player pool. Although it was possible for international players in regulated markets to join French poker sites, the traffic at even the largest platforms has been disappointing at best.
Moreover, according to a 2014 study by France’s Observatory of Games (ODJ) and Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (ODFT), 47 percent of online poker players in France plied their trade on “illegal” sites.
Despite almost half of the country’s poker population opting to play on offshore sites with more liquidity, the French government has been reluctant to act on the issue.
In fact, even with revenues continuing to fall, the French National Assembly rejected a proposal for player pool sharing as recently as January 2016.
Fortunately, just a few months removed from that verdict, the French Senate has finally passed a bill that will allow French players to rejoin at least some parts of the wider poker community.
The bill, which is titled the Law for a Digital Republic, was passed by a unanimous margin of 323 votes and under its terms, ARJEL will be able to act as a mediator between French-facing sites and international platforms.
Although the finer details of the bill are yet to be confirmed, it looks as though countries with proven track records for iGaming regulation will be allowed to link up with the current crop of French sites.
Early speculation suggests that Italy, Spain, and possibly Portugal will be the first countries to partner with France in a bid to create a more sustainable poker economy.
However, even though it’s too early to tell how things will play out, it could still be a case of too little too late for French poker players.
With taxation still high and the market seemingly tarnished through years of mismanagement, it could take more than a liquidity sharing pact to turn things around.