The intersection of sports and betting has always been an attractive area for criminal organizations, with governments doing their best to keep both sports and business clean.
As internet betting in France shows significant growth (EUR 705 million turnover in 2012, a 19% growth from the year before), with 2.2 million punters visiting the 8 licensed sites, the volume is large enough to evoke interest from organized crime.
“Criminal organizations have always been interested in the game, and with the internet developing online sports betting has become a growing market for many Asian criminal networks,” says Christian Kalb, a French gambling and sports consultant.
Domestic regulations that were implemented at the time of the 2010 changes to French gambling laws appear to offer adequate protection, and the country has been practically unaffected by recent scandals that erupted in Italy, Spain, Germany and Eastern Europe.
One of these regulations is a limitation on the sports that can be bet on. Unlike players in the UK, the French can not bet on amateur football or third division women’s basketball, limiting the potential of match-fixing as well.
Furthermore, there is a cap on return to players, set at 85% of the bets per operator per year. “This rate is a good defense against money laundering. It is not interesting enough for mafia networks that would launder dirty money,” says Kalb.
Indeed, the real threat comes from abroad, as 90% of betting on French sporting events takes place on foreign websites. Although many of these sites are in countries with which France has bilateral agreements (UK, Spain, italy, etc.), many others are based in Asia, and those sportsbooks are impossible to control from Europe.
In addition to sports betting, a similar situation exists in the case of Asian online casinos, visited by many who are not satisfied by the French internet casino selection.