PARIS (Reuters) - Eleven companies have been licensed and registered by the French government to conduct online betting on sports and horse races, as well as poker, the local regulatory authority said on Tuesday.
The companies include state-run Francaise des Jeux, horsing-racing outfit Pari Mutuel Urbain (PMU), Iliad Gaming, Sajoo, Betclic, Beturf, BES SS, Everest Gaming, France Pari, SPS Betting France and Table 14.
“There were 35 requests for licences and we have retained 17 at this stage. None have been formally rejected,” said Jean-Francois Vilotte, the president of Arjel, the regulator of gaming in France, in an interview on Europe 1 radio.
The official licences come after France made certain kinds of online gambling legal, breaking the prior stranglehold of state-run group Francaise de Jeux and PMU. They also come just days ahead of the start of the soccer World Cup in South Africa.
A host of gambling companies, including Austria’s BWIN, UK group Partygaming and privately held Mangas Gaming and Pokerstar are in the process of applying for a licence, seeking first mover advantage under the new regime.
Critics, however, say the extent of market liberalisation remains inadequate, as online companies have been shut out of lucrative and low-risk casino games like blackjack and roulette, as well as lotto.
Meanwhile, Francaise de Jeux will keep all its betting outlets, set inside France’s ubiquitous cafes and tobacco shops.
(Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau et Pascale Denis; Writing by Leila Abboud; editing by Simon Jessop)