France's FDJ Battles to Preserve Its Monopoly

24 July 2006

A very interesting court case is developing in France. The Association of Modern Casinos in France (Casinos Modernes de France) has lodged a complaint with the European Commission and Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin against the monopoly that the French state has on the gambling market, claiming that the monopoly, La Fran├žaise des Jeux (FDJ), is abusing its dominant market position.

Following a summary judgment on April 11, 2006, the FDJ stated in a press release that its site is "only accessible to French residents aged more than 18," that "the weekly stake is limited (to 500 euro)" and that "the gambler's huge gains are directly paid into their bank account and not into a gambling account."

In the summary judgment, however, the judges dismiss this argument. The court points out that even though people under 18 are not allowed by the FDJ to participate in gambling, the FDJ still allows them to access its Web site.

Nevertheless, the Syndicat des Casinos Modernes de France, with its lawyers, Thibault Verbiest and Evelyn Heffermehl, doesn't stop here. It points out that Decree No. 2006-174 (Feb. 17, 2006) forces the FDJ from now on "to be watchful not to prompt people aged under 16 to gamble. This accounts as well for PMU, the French horse betting organization."

According to the judges, "It is obvious that the Web site notably aims to prompt the reader to gamble. Since it is accessible to people under 16, it prompts them to gamble notwithstanding the provisions of this text."

The court consequently remarks that "the illicit opening of the Web site to people aged under 18 is a manifest disturbance for the Syndicat, considering that gambling amateurs reading the 11th of April press release may be mislead on the FDJ legality of behavior regarding people under 18, and so favor the FDJ services."

The judges thus command the FDJ to stop the diffusion of the press release during 6 months within a deadline of 24 hours following the notification of the summary judgment.

In this process, the lawyers lodged a complaint with the European Commission as well as versus the state, i.c. Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin. The prime minister did not respond, so the lawyers will seize the Conseil d'Etat by July 26 with a view to challenge the monopoly of the FDJ; it will be a year before there is a ruling.

The FDJ is also dealing with the complaint of the French businessman, Robert Riblet, who is convinced that the national lottery is cheating with its scratch cards. Riblet says that he can proof that the scratch-card prizes are not random. The FDJ maintains that it did nothing wrong.

Rob van der Gaast has a background in sports journalism. He worked for over seven years as the head of sports for Dutch National Radio and has developed new concepts for the TV and the gambling industry. Now he operates from Istanbul as an independent gambling research analyst. He specializes in European gambling matters and in privatizations of gambling operators. Rob has contributed to IGN since Jul 09, 2001.