Sports betting powers French online GGR to €1.42bn in 2019

17 February 2020

France’s online gaming market revenue grew 18.1% year-on-year to €1.42bn in 2019, thanks in part to a 27.3% increase in the contirbution from sports betting, according to online gambling regulator L’Autorité nationale de régulation des jeux en ligne (ARJEL).

Sports betting made up the majority of French igaming revenue for the year, at €880m, despite the lack of a major international football tournament, and compared to a prior year that included the Fifa World Cup. ARJEL noted that this did lead to sports betting revenue growth slowing after a 56% increase in revenue for 2018.

This figure came on a record €5.06bn worth of stakes on sports bets, up 30% year-on-year. Almost all of these stakes came on fixed-odds bets, with €14m staked on pool bets.

There were a total of 3.4m active sports betting accounts in France in 2019, up 6.7% year-on-year.

Looking to other verticals, horse racing and online poker both posted year-on-year growth, though at slower rates than the dominant sports betting vertical. 

Horse racing revenue grew 5.9% to €271m, after player stakes grew 5.4% to €1.11bn worth of bets, the highest amount staked since 2012. This was driven in part by increased player activity, with the number of active accounts up 1.9% to 599,000.

Online poker, meanwhile, saw revenue grow 5.4% to €272m, of which €88m came from cash games, and €184m from poker tournaments. There were 1.2m active poker players in the country in 2019, an increase of 5.5%.

Over the year, operators paid gambling taxes of €701m, with the majority coming from sportsbook licensees. Sports betting accounted for €470m of the total, followed by €145m from horse racing, and €86m from poker.

The strong full year figures followed a successful fourth quarter, in which revenue grew 9.1% to €378m.

Sports betting again made up the majority of revenue, at €215m for the quarter, on stakes of €1.06bn. Football was the most popular sport for betting during the quarter, as players staked €846.4m, of which €125.2m was placed on the Uefa Champions League and €124.8m on Ligue 1. Customers still focus on pre-match betting, with in-play stakes representing just 29% of football bets.

Live betting proved more popular in the country's second most popular betting sport, basketball, on which players staked €271.9m, of which €171.8m was placed on the National Basketball Association (NBA). In-play accounted for 40% of basketball bets. 

Bettors staked €187.1m on tennis, with the Paris Masters the most popular event, and €57.1m on rugby union - including €27.3m on the Rugby World Cup - followed by ice hockey (€53.7m) and volleyball (€23.7m).

Poker revenue for the quarter, benefitted from strong growth in tournamnent fees, which rose 22.5% year-on-year to €52.8m, while cash game revenue grew 8.4% to €23.2m. 

Horse racing, saw revenue grow €72m, a 7.5% improvement on Q4 2018, with amounts wagered climbing 6.9% to €294m. 

Operators paid gambling taxes of €200.5m in the quarter. Sports betting levies came to €139m, horse racing €38.5m and poker €23m.

France’s government has initiated plans to replace ARJEL with a new gambling regulator, who will oversee not only online gambling but also land-based casinos and on-track horse race betting. This new regulator, L’autorité nationale des jeux (ANJ) is set to launch in spring 2020, according to Prime Minister Édouard Philippe.

Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, currently state councillor for France’s National Commission for Data Protection, will be ANJ’s first president.

In December 2019, France’s senate approved a budget bill for 2020, including an amendment to calculate gambling tax based on gross gaming revenue (GGR) rather than turnover.

The Senate said that the change allows operators and the state to “share the luck” by ensuring that tax bills will adjust for fluctuations in the success of punters.

Also in December 2019, lottery and gambling giant FDJ was privatised by the French government, bringing in €1.89bn through the sale of 99,320,000 shares, of 52% of FDJ's share capital.