Oh, France! The homeland of fresh-baked croissants and expensive wine. Everyone has the same dream: strolling around the narrow streets of Paris, and taking a selfie with the Eiffel Tower in the background. Come visit the Tour de France or Paris Fashion Week, and experience a rich palette of emotions. And while you’re here, don’t forget to search for a gambling venue, as the majority of the games originate in this elegant land of liberty!
The difference between France and the rest of the world is that gambling here isn’t forbidden, but merely restricted. Here are some insights into the French gambling culture and its current status in the country.
It all began in the early 1500s when the Queen was introduced into the card deck. The French variation was the precursor of the standard 52-card deck we use today. No wonder! Because this innovation actually led to the creation of the majority of the most popular games we play today. For example, Blackjack, known in those days as “vingt-et-un,” was developed and played by the French Templars, as well the game of Faro. Both of these games were exported to neighboring Britain, and then shipped to the United States. And with the help of the French living in Mississippi, these card games spread all over the country.
Cards were not the only thing that developed in France. The 16th century also gave rise to the idea of a state lottery, which was adopted throughout Europe. A century later, Roulette, one of the most influential casino games, was invented. And in 1842, the Blanc brothers introduced zero into the wheel to increase the house edge. Other table games, such as poker and chemin de fer (similar to baccarat), developed in France and made their way into Europe and the United States.
No other state has ever been as democratic towards gambling as France! For example, when slots machines became popular, the government legalized them. In 1997, the state gave its residents an even bigger present, when the government imposed a law that lowered the gambling age from 21 to 18.
France is the country of legal gambling. However, there are huge discrepancies between the offline and online gambling market. As of today, there are 200 casinos and 16 bingo games halls all over the country. All of them can be found in official casino guides, where customers can look through the reviews and make their choice. However, this only relates to land-based casinos. As for the online gambling platform, the whole situation seems to be rigged. Let’s take a closer look at both forms in more detail, in order to understand the difference.
Any form of gambling in France is regulated by the government and subject to licensing. Land-based casinos should be built in certain areas with clear operating hours. Gaming and casino gambling, sports betting, horse race betting, as well as lotteries, are all supervised and regulated by the Ministry of the Interior and the Budget Minister. The only type of betting forbidden in the country is betting on fantasy sports!
In addition to the ministries who serve as the main branches of regulation, there are also special commissions that have been established to monitor gambling operations. For instance, legal sports betting and lotteries refer to Francaise de Jeux (FDJ), while horse racing is covered by Le Pari Mutuel Urbain (PMU). All illegal activities are monitored and prosecuted by special police forces named Sous Direction des Courses et des Jeux. Basically, if you are 18 years old, you are allowed to play and wager anything you want in France, and the sky’s the limit for you!
Now this is the moment when it all becomes a huge paradox. For a long time, online gambling was highly controlled and restricted by the government. In 2001 PMU and FDJ acquired licenses to provide services online. However, all of this was brought down to regulation of horse racing and sports. Online casinos were banned. Video poker, slots game or any other kind of gaming activity for real money on the Internet was declared illegal.
This situation was aggravated when foreign online gambling sites intervened in French territory. The EU authorities claimed that vibe regulation of the industry violates the general provisions established for foreign online platforms, thereby pushing France to amend its legislation. In 2009 the government backed down and adopted a bill, opening its market to more than 2500 websites, which did not cause any problems for public order and were recognized as credible. Nevertheless, their activity was narrowed down to betting on sports and horse racing.
The criticism that followed this decision forced the French government to adopt the 2010 French Gambling Act. From that moment on, online poker and bingo became legal. But the whole situation is not as simple as it seems from the first sight. Online casinos are forbidden, as they are recognized as being too addictive. This includes slots, roulette and blackjack.
Now France has a Regulatory Authority for Online Games (ARJEL), which functions as a gaming commission. This regulatory body is responsible for granting licenses to foreign gambling operators, while also publishing a list of the companies that are allowed to operate under the online gambling law. Of course, the industry is highly taxed, and it is very unlikely that small sites will succeed in France!
Furthermore, online gamblers have got frustrated when foreign operators could not run any kind of casino at all, while French user accounts also ended up being blocked. Many poker players received a message that the sites where they played were banned, and some of them were transferred to the sites of other companies like PartyPoker, which were allowed to play. The most outrageous thing happened when high tax rates were imposed on bets and cash game pots, which simply made it too expensive for French players to gamble online! Of course, there are plenty of methods people can use to bypass these strict laws, such as changing and hiding their IP address or by using UK accounts, which is actually a fairly common practice in France.
Last but not least, social gambling is completely legal in France. To be more precise, there are no regulations in this regard, as this kind of pastime is not considered to be supporting games of chance, nor to be a highly addictive activity. Playing for virtual money or bonuses is something anyone can practice without any restrictions!
Numbers show that this industry, with its $35 billion annual turnover, is not slowing down; and is expected to expand in the year 2019! Last year’s growth figures stopped at 2.2%, and there is no sign of any future drop on the way. And with an average age of 42, this nation of 64 million people has so many ways to progress in gambling in the coming years.
Such sporting events such as the World Cup may help boost both offline and online revenues. Soccer is considered to be the “national sport,” and when the 2010 World Cup coincided with the adoption of the Gambling Act, the online betting industry nabbed a hefty profit of €83 million! The same applies to major events like Tour de France. Nevertheless, the leadership belongs to horse racing. The pari-mutuel system in France flourishes within more than 8,000 PMU kiosks and bars, which is where 80% of the bets are actually made!
Online gambling in France strongly depends upon both legislation and the tax system. Around 47% of poker players are frustrated with the official online platform, preferring to use unlicensed websites instead. So it seems the French government doesn’t see any reason to weaken its grip on online casinos right now. Apparently, due to the leading position of horse racing in online income, poker is not considered to be worth supporting!
Yet another reason why French officials ban online casinos is that they are trying to avert problem gambling. Nonetheless, statistics states that there are 45% of active gamblers among French people, and only 1.3% of them have confessed they have a gambling problem. To be frank, these figures are very low, and there is no evidence that allowing online casinos has the potential to negatively affect the current situation.
French biggest gambling venue is located in the magnificent city of Cannes. This place is famous for the annual International Film Festival, as well for its truly breathtaking landscapes. There are three major casinos there, with 63 table games, 655 slot, video poker and other gaming machines. But this is nothing compared to Casino Barriere Enghien-les-Bains, the biggest casino in the entire province!
If you know nothing about gambling culture in French, think of the old Bond movies. People in tuxedos or suits, holding handcrafted drinks in their hands and wandering around the hall. But this is not the only difference you may spot here, compared with the traditional American style of gambling. For example, some of the terms and betting processes may differ from what you’re used to. In French roulette there some additional encouragement bets, like “en prison” and “le partage,” to protect players from getting zeros. And if you decide to play some baccarat call for “croupier” to deal the cards. A “palette” is the wooden thing that moves the card, while it’s a “shoe” that houses them.
The overall situation with gambling in France is not that complicated when it comes to land-based casinos; but if you do decide to find an internet casino to play, there might be some obstacles! The best way to make some profit both online and offline is to go with sports betting, as French people are extremely fond of this. What is more, you won’t face any problems with the law or high taxes. This is pretty good, as after getting your winning pot, you certainly don’t want to get ripped off!
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