Macron’s bet puts French gambling at a crossroads

Emmanuel Macron’s surprise decision to call snap legislative elections in the wake of the success of France’s far right Rassemblement National at the European elections has caused uncertainty among the country’s gaming and sports betting industry and major ructions among the country’s political parties.

More broadly and depending on how the current horse trading between the different parties ends, the outcome of the two rounds of voting taking place on 30 June and 7 July could also represent a major realignment of the country’s political landscape. 

For France’s gaming stakeholders, the main preoccupation remains the regulation of online casino. Recall, the country is the only major western European market to not have regulated the vertical, while at the same time the illegal market is thriving as an estimated 3.5-4 million French players visit unregulated sites.   

It’s also worth noting that unlicensed online sports betting may not generate the same revenue estimates as iCasino (€1.5bn-€2bn), but it remains a highly profitable vertical for the unregulated books targeting French punters. 

SBC News French gambling at play as Macron makes boldest of bets
Laurent Lassiaz: JOA

From the industry’s perspective, Laurent Lassiaz, CEO of JOA Group and VP of the industry trade body Casinos de France, told Gaming & Co that the event doesn’t change gambling operators’ views of the elections. 

However,  depending on the results and the “potential changes in Government, we’ll have to ‘educate’ or ‘update’ any new members. It means more meetings, but also more opportunities to raise the awareness of our topics”. 

Marine Le Pen’s RN party, with 28 year-old Jordan Bardella as its figurehead, is predicted to win around 33% of the votes and with France’s presidential elections due in 2027, there is a real prospect that it could lead the French government until then.

Macron will hope that his Renaissance party can somehow reach an agreement with other centre-right parties, although the turmoil at Les Républicains does not augur well, while overnight France’s left wing parties said they had agreed on a common set of policies and candidates as part of a Popular Front coalition.       

How would the RN, should it get into power, approach the topic of online casino regulation? “Any new players at government level will take a close look at how to get more euros into the budget,” said Lassiaz, “therefore regulating online casino would be an option as it would generate €800m-€1bn in tax revenues.” 

One industry source who works closely with French MPs and politicians told G&C the elections could have major repercussions.  

“Depending on the results, there could be a complete reorganisation of political life and that could change many things. Which political forces will determine how the cards are dealt, how the government is constituted and who stays or goes.”

“Positions on certain topics can evolve, or not,” they added, “and we don’t know who will be in charge of the economy, if there will still be a digital portfolio, plus all the compromises required to form a government.”  

For Laurent Lassiaz, “even though the government could be different, the administrative teams in the different ministries and cabinets know what the options are in order to tackle a major European illegal market, generate more taxes and put in place better player protection measures than the current system.”

Timings of potential new iCasino regulations would remain unchanged at “within the next 12 to 24 months”, he added.

The RN’s views on iCasino regulation are unknown, but with France’s 200 casinos providing major funding for the country’s communes up and down the country, G&C’s contact noted that “the link to territory is always part of its discourse”. However, the topic is very divisive “so it’s unclear whether it would want to take it on straight away”. 

With France’s parliament dissolved, the draft law such as the one presented by the MP Philippe Latombe in May 2023 is now void and would have to once again be put forward in the next parliamentary session.  

With the Euros football tournament kicking off this evening, the Tour de France on 29 June and the Olympic Games starting on 26 July, the next few months could be tough for Emmanuel Macron if the polls are correct. 

Despite having more than 80 MPs in parliament since 2022, the RN has never held senior government positions, but in any case the parliamentary commissions and working groups will not be finalised until late September at the earliest.