France, Brussels Shoot for Mid-March Resolution

6 November 2007

Negotiations have finally begun between France and the European Commission over the country's oft-criticized gambling rules.

In an interview published today, French Budget Minister Eric Woerth indicated that the Sarkozy government was not opposed "to a certain opening" but said it would remain firm on certain points.

Woerth singled out the issue of mutual recognition, calling it "difficult" to accept.

"Just because an operator is recognized in a foreign country is no reason for us to open our gates to them in France," he said. "We intend to keep control of authorizations."

Woerth did suggest however that the country, a year and change into its infringement proceeding with Brussels, would be prepared to consider loosening its monopoly over horserace betting.

"Operators apart from the Pari Mutuel Urbain could be accepted, but we want to keep the principle of pari-mutuel," he said.

According to the AP, Woerth said technical details should be worked out by February in the hope of reaching a deal by mid-March, adding: "It is not good to let such problems linger."