Casinos, one-arm bandits, coming to cash-strapped French cities

Fri Jan 22, 2016 12:19pm EST
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By Jean-Francois Rosnoblet

MARSEILLE, France (Reuters) - French casino operators are seeking to expand beyond their historic hunting grounds of chic holiday resorts in search of younger customers.

An industry that has thrived despite strict regulation and a century-old ban in the capital Paris is now eyeing big urban centers where it was once unwelcome.

With cash-strapped local governments looking for more revenue, the tax jackpots casinos can generate are looking increasingly attractive.

That is helping them get a foothold outside of the resort and health spa towns, such as Deauville on France's northern coast, to which they have been largely confined since casino gambling was legalized in 1907.

In a policy U-turn, the mayor of Marseille, Jean-Claude Gaudin, has just opened the way for a casino operation in the Mediterranean port city of more than 800,000 people, where one in four resident lives below the poverty line.

Gaudin announced earlier this week that a public tender was to be launched to license a casino operator in a sun-soaked city that more often makes the headlines with news of shootouts among rival druglords.

"I've never in my entire life played in a casino, but I can understand people like it," Gaudin conceded.

As France, like the rest of Europe, strives to keep a lid on public overspending, the drive to cut deficits is putting local government funding under increasing pressure and boosting the attractiveness of cash-cow casinos.   Continued...

A young croupier trainee turns the roulette wheel at a gaming table at the Cerus Casino Academy in Marseille, France, in this picture taken on November 6, 2013.   REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier/Files