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France Focus: Has the market achieved success?

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Eric Sjoden is a senior advisor at the French gambling regulator, l’Autorite Nationale des Jeux. He believes that a symbiotic partnership with France’s gaming market will help to improve how they operate.

The gambling industry in France has never recovered fully from the advertising blitz that took place during the 2020 UEFA European Championship.

The ANJ was compelled to take a more aggressive stance against marketing, telling the operators that “a certain volume had been exceeded”. ANJ took actionable steps to limit the amount of advertising for gambling that operators ran in 2022. The goal was to safeguard young people, and especially vulnerable groups.

These were not quick-to-implement regulations. ANJ instead launched a consultation to gather feedback from both the operators and public. Sjoden says that this is an important part of the way France views its gambling industry.

Eric Sjoden, senior advisor for international affairs, l’Autorite Nationale des Jeux

He explains that “in France, we always have a dialogue with the operators. It’s part and parcel of our logic.”

We speak to them about AML, problem gambling… and it is normal to talk to them regarding advertising and advice.

Lines for communication

It is important to keep this dialog going. In order to maintain open lines of communication, ANJ asks operators each year to submit plans aimed at combating fraud, money-laundering, terrorist funding and safer gaming.

Sjoden says that “this provision permits a continuous dialogue between operators, and regulators.” The regulator may also make recommendations.

We see an improvement in governance, risk management and business relationships, year on year, even if ANJ rejects one plan of action from one operator.

ANJ doesn’t hesitate to reject these plans if the are not satisfactory. The regulator rejected six action plans for problem gambling in April. It noted that the plans of casinos and gaming clubs were lacking in “significant advances or innovative measures”.

Sjoden says that by regulating in this way, operators are forced to anticipate gaps before they arise. This approach is similar to that of other European markets.

Sjöden is focused on the “co-responsibility between operators and the regulator”

He continues, “This is how we define regulation.” This is the reason you will see less sanctions in other countries, because operators are starting to grasp our regulatory framework.

It may not be the first, but it could happen after a year or two, and if there is a fine. It’s compliance.”

Sjoden said that other European operators were eager to know how ANJ executed this early intervention.

He says, “We’re always up for a discussion with regulators.” If they have questions for us about the regulation in question, that’s great.

It’s possible that this type of regulation will become increasingly common in the coming years.

Co-operation is the key

Sjoden is clear that he does not consider the regulation of France’s gambling industry as a sole ANJ endeavor. Sjoden stresses the importance of “co-responsibility” between the operators and regulator.

He says that “they both need to collaborate on the market in order to have a sustainable international presence.”

ANJ does not end there. Sjoden reveals the operator’s current efforts – a tool to track gambling harm, and possibly establishing loss limits that are under ANJ control.

These tools are designed to help France promote responsible gambling. However, it is considering an even bigger move – legalising online casinos.

The bill 1248 was presented in May, by Philippe Latombe from the Democratic Movement of France. This bill states that online gambling is now preferred by players. It also says that offshore casinos do not provide responsible gambling practices because there are no legal options.

ANJ has no plans to ban or restrict gambling advertising

Sjoden believes that ANJ needs more information before it can give advice about the opening of the online casino industry. Sjoden says that the regulator, in this regard, has ordered a report on illegal gambling habits and consumption patterns in France. It is expected to be published later this month.

The study is expected to provide an estimation of the size and scope of the gambling market, as well as a deeper understanding of illegal offerings and player’s practices.

“AnJ will use this as a basis to present an evaluation of the administrative blocking of websites that are illegal, in place since a year ago, and lessons learned regarding regulatory options.”

The well-oiled machine

It works, regardless of what you think about France’s regulatory approach. Operators pledged that they would reduce the amount of advertising during the Fifa World Cup 2022.

Sjoden said that while the monitoring and sanctions were serious, ANJ did not want to prohibit or restrict advertising for gambling.

There are advertising restrictions. “We want to see the law keep some restrictions but without severe ones, such as a prohibition on gambling advertisements.”

ANJ believes it is important that players have access to the French gambling market, and operators are able to do so in a safe environment. This balance must be struck. Sjoden states: “We are trying to maintain a few lines of communication.”

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