PARIS (Reuters) - French online gaming revenues surged during the World Cup, following the implementation of a new gaming law aimed to lure players on legal sites, although half of them are still choosing illegal operators.
France made online sports betting legal in early June, just in time for the World Cup. Previously, all legal online betting passed through state monopolies Francaise des Jeux and Paris Mutuel Urbain (PMU).
According to the French authority for online gambling and betting, operators garnered revenue of 107 million euros ($138 million) during the World Cup, including 70 percent on soccer, with an average stake of 10 euros.
Before the market was legalized, the online gambling market was generating 3-3.5 billion euros of annual gross revenue, of which two thirds was illegal.
During the first month after legalization, 1.2 million French people chose to gamble on licensed sites, around half the total estimated number of players.
According to Global Betting & Gaming Consultants, the gross gambling yield -- gross turnover less the amount paid out to players as winnings -- is set to double in France from 2009 to 2011 to 665 million euros.
“It is well known that a large amount of players come in to bet on these big events and get out right after,” said Isabelle Parize, vice-chairman of Mangas Gaming, parent of the BetClic website, which already operated before the market was legalized.
“The question is to know how many players will stay and how much they will bet.”
Online gambling operators are looking for ways to keep customers betting in the wake of a World Cup frenzy fueled by the legalization of the market in France.
Operators are betting on smartphones that allow customers to place bets anywhere, including even in stadiums. They are also relying on new technologies, such as betting directly via TV remote controls in gamblers’ own living rooms.
Media groups that opted for partnerships instead of becoming operators themselves could emerge as the real winners as they benefit from advertising revenue from new entrants eager to boost their image among potential online gamblers.
Operators invested 40.6 million euros in advertising, according to figures from WPP’s Kantar Media.
Pari Mutuel Urbain (PMU), the former monopoly for betting on horse racing, accounted for one-third of this amount as it sought to tell people it had expanded into other sports.
Austrian group Bwin, not yet well known in France, has invested more in advertising than la Francaise des Jeux, which benefits also from its 25,000 shops.
For the poker industry, where online betting was legalized only at the end of June, operators are complaining that gamblers cannot play on “.com” websites that cross French borders.
“It could be a problem for the poker industry if all these markets break down into individual countries. It ruins the benefit of having a pool of players across Europe,” said Lorien Pilling, from GBGC.
“Obviously, each individual country’s players are restricted then to their markets, which could damage the online poker business model.”
Reporting by Cyril Altmeyer; editing by Simon Jessop