The European Commission announced yesterday that they have closed infringement proceedings against France that have been outstanding since October 2006. The EC had issue with French gambling laws, arguing that they severely restricted competition from foreign operators, which was inconsistent with EU rules on free trade among member states.
In June 2007 the EC officially asked France to change their gambling laws. At the time, the only groups legally permitted to offer internet gambling in France were Pari Mutuel Urbain (PMU) for horse racing, and the Français de Jeux for all other forms of sports betting. No other European operator was allowed to compete in France’s gambling market.
France notified the EC in 2009 that their laws had been amended, and that their internet gambling industry had been liberalized. Since then, the country’s gambling commission ARJEL (Autorité de égulation des jeux en ligne) has given out 45 licenses to 32 different operators. In light of these changes, the EC has officially ended infringement proceedings against France.
French gamblers have benefited greatly from the changes. They now have access to a broader variety of fully licensed online gambling sites in France, and are able to choose from more than just state-run operators.
The EC closed similar proceedings against Italy in May 2010 after the country liberalized its internet gambling industry, but the Commission continues to fight battles with other EU nations, including Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, the Netherlands and Sweden, insisting that they too open up their internet gambling sectors to external operators for the sake of players.