We just received notification from Unibet that they are applying for an online gambling licenses in France. And like William Hill and 888.com, they are not accepting French players while their application is pending…
“According to the French law of 12 May 2010 concerning the opening of the French gambling market, we would like to inform you that Unibet has made the formal request to the French authorities for 3 licenses in order to offer Sportsbook, Horse Racing and Poker on unibet.fr. While we are waiting for these authorisations, Unibet would like you to remove all communication towards the French users living in France”
I must admit the Unibet decision doesn’t come as a surprise and makes strategic sense. They have invested a lot of money over the past few years in building brand recognition within France with high profile marketing campaigns including sponsorship of a UCI Pro Continental cycling team. Team Unibet.com was eventually disbanded in 2007 after French cycling authorities barred the team from participation the Tour de France and Pari-Nice races that year because of the online gambling connection. But the Swedish gambling giant clearly has interest in investing heavily in the mainstream advertising market in France and a license will allow them to do that.
It is worth noting that the French online gambling regulations (as they presently stand) do not allow for casino games of chance – just wagering, sports betting and poker. So even once Unibet, 888.com etc are granted their licenses, French players will be unable to access their live blackjack, roulette or baccarat games.
According to Arjel, the regulator of gaming in France, 35 companies have so far applied for licenses under the new regime. Of those 35, 17 have already been given the thumbs up including state-run Francaise des Jeux (surprise, surprise), PMU, Betclic, Everest Gaming, and France Pari. Apparently none have been formally rejected yet says Jean-Francois Vilotte, the president of Arjel.
Of course there is still a long list of operators choosing not to apply for licenses who will happily continue to accept French players and allow them to play all of their games. Some are actually promoting this fact in an effort to soak up players who can no longer access their chosen casino. We received a note from one casino group (connected to Royal Vegas) today advising:
“All three of our casinos are fully functional to the French market. This would range from New Player Accounts to ongoing promotional material and Support”
Our updated list of the best live casino options for French players is set out here.
But this may well be a constantly changing list over the coming months as operators decide what path they wish to take in the new French I-gaming landscape.