The French commercial online gambling sector has witnessed robust growth, with Gross Gaming Revenue (GGR) surging by 10.1 percent year-on-year to reach €1.18 billion in the first half of 2023, according to data released by the Autorité Nationale des Jeux (ANJ). While this indicates a promising trajectory, the sector is still slightly below its performance in H1 2021 when GGR touched €1.21 billion.
Online sports betting dominates
Within the commercial sector, online sports betting emerged as a strong driver of growth, contributing €750 million to the H1 2023 total, an increase of 9.5 percent compared to the previous year. Simultaneously, GGR from horse racing betting experienced a steady rise of 4.7 percent reaching €177 million, while online poker saw a remarkable surge of 16.2 percent, reaching €251 million. Interestingly, online poker was the only segment that outperformed H1 2021, attributed to various factors, including the postponed Euro 2020 tournament and temporary retail betting outlet closures during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Football leads the way
Football continues to reign supreme in the online sports betting segment, accounting for a substantial 58.2 percent of all H1 GGR, totaling €436.8 million. Tennis emerged as the next most popular sport, generating €175.4 million in GGR, followed by basketball with 10.3 percent of GGR at €76.9 million and rugby contributing 1.2 percent at €9.2 million. The total GGR from online sports betting reached €750 million, derived from a handle of €4.19 billion, resulting in an approximately 17.9 percent hold rate for operators.
While the commercial online sector displayed impressive growth, France’s state-owned lottery and horse racing operators, La Français des Jeux (FDJ) and Pari Mutuel Urbain (PMU), continued to be major revenue contributors to the French gambling market. FDJ achieved €3.3 billion in GGR from €10.48 billion in stakes, marking year-on-year growth rates of 2.4 percent and 4.5 percent for GGR and stakes, respectively. Meanwhile, PMU generated €873 million in GGR, marking a 0.7 percent increase from €3.43 billion in wagers, reflecting a 1 percent increase.
Changes in online casino regulation
A development in the French gambling landscape is the introduction of a legislative bill in May this year, aiming to bring regulated online casinos to the market. Despite a thriving online betting market and over 200 land-based casinos, online casinos remain prohibited in France. According to the proposed timeline, French companies are expected to launch online casino operations in 2025, commencing a five-year ‘moratorium’ period during which international operators will be excluded from the market. This legislation intends to provide national players with a conducive environment for growth before a complete opening of the market on 1 January 2030.
Previous statistics from the ANJ indicate that between 1.4 million and 2.4 million French players currently use overseas, unregulated operators for online casino gaming, resulting in an estimated annual expenditure of around €2 billion. The anticipated introduction of online casino regulation is poised to significantly boost GGR figures in France’s online gambling sector in the years to come.