French Finance Minister Reemphasizes 'Controlled Opening'

28 September 2007

French Finance Minister Eric Woerth on Wednesday told French media that his government was "not hostile to (France) opening up to online gaming," but it must be controlled.

Following French President Nicolas Sarkozy's budget proposal, Woerth said that France would not allow just any operator to enter the market due to concerns of social welfare and gambling addiction, Agence France Presse (AFP) reports.

France has been under a microscope since June, when the European Commission (EC) initiated proceedings against the country for its restrictive betting laws. But in August the EC gave France two additional months to respond to its inquiries regarding the non-compliance of its sports-betting policy with EU law.

French weekly Le Journal du Dimanche had previously reported that during a meeting in early September between Woerth and EU Internal Market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy, the Sarkozy government had agreed to loosen restrictions on sports betting from overseas companies but would not license betting shops as Italy and certain Spanish regions have done.

Woerth is now scheduled for a meeting in Brussels in early October to discuss private online gaming operators who would take bets from French residents. And later in the month, he is due in Paris to discuss adapting the French gaming model to EU trade policies.

The meeting is Paris will reportedly be attended by French gambling monopolies PMU and Francaise des Jeux, French casino groups Barrière, Partouche and Tranchants, the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) and Betfair.