French Budget Minister Brokers Advertising Truce

1 May 2009
It appears the French budget minister has managed to stop the influx of online gambling advertising from foreign operators by securing agreements with those operators and, surprisingly, the French gambling monopolies.

In recent weeks, Eric Woerth, the man responsible for ushering in the new online gaming regime in France, had reacted hotly to radio and television ad campaigns launched by BetClick, Bwin and Unibet.

Mr. Woerth's assertion that “publicity for gaming operators remains illegal apart from for those companies that have authorisation” was reported by Agence France-Presse on April 21, following the launch of a major campaign by BetClick on Europe 1, the national radio station.

BetClick indicated initially that it would continue with its ad campaigns despite Mr. Woerth's decree.

But the company subsequently said it would suspend those campaigns once Mr. Woerth announced that the two monopoly operators, Française des Jeux and Pari Mutuel Urbain, would also suspend advertising for online products until January 2010.

On Wednesday, Mr. Woerth declared in Le Figaro, a daily newspaper, that advertising by overseas operators “must cease immediately.”

“The current law is very clear and it needs to be applied," he went on. "Those websites do not yet have the right to operate in France and the ban also applies to any advertising that they may wish to do."

However, he asked overseas operators to have “a little patience."

In a conciliatory move to defuse the row, he added that Française des Jeux and Pari Mutuel Urbain would agree to refrain from promoting their online products, even though, under French law, it's legal for them to do so.

Only hours after Mr. Woerth’s comments were published in Le Figaro, a spokesman from BetClick declared: "From the moment that all promotional activities, dedicated programmes, sponsorships, etc. are cancelled, we declare we are ready to suspend our partnership with the radio station."

After BetClick's comments were publicized, Française des Jeux declared that it, too, would suspend advertising for its sports betting product Cote et Match, featured on radio RTL, effective May 1.

IGN's Take

With overseas operators not wishing to get on the wrong side of the authorities so soon before the market opens up, and the French government wary of European Union intervention in the interim if it defends its monopolies too strongly, it appears that an entente cordiale has now been established in the world of online betting and gaming.

Mr. Wood is a veteran of the international betting and gaming industry, having worked in the past for companies like Ladbrokes and Victor Chandler. He is now an established consultant and researcher advising companies on market entry and business development projects in Europe.