Playtech says Au revoir to France

Playtech has said au revioir to French players wanting to play their casino games.

With the introduction of the new online gambling reg’s in France a couple of months ago, and regulator ARJEL busy assessing license applications, Playtech have decided that for the time being at least, all of their licensee casinos can no longer serve French players.

That means of course that the Playtech live casino range, and casinos who use it (bet365, betfred, William Hill, 21 Nova, Eurogrand etc) are now no longer available to the French.

It’s a pretty big exclusion policy for Playtech to decide to enforce and its immediate impact will be significant – not of the same magnitude as the decision to close the door on US players, but significant nonetheless.

And at the moment they are alone.  As yet competitors have given no indication that they will be following suite.  Indeed casinos powered by the industry’s other powerhouse developer, Microgaming, have been actively marketing their ongoing future dedication to the French market regardless of the regulations.  Although this could change given Microgaming are applying to ARJEL for licenses.

So why the exit from Playtech?

If I were a betting man I would say that both Playtech, and William Hill are certain to apply for poker and sports betting licenses.  As yet they haven’t applied, choosing rather to sit on the sidelines and see how things progress (ie are any non-French companies successful!).  But you don’t make all the right moves (and very costly ones at that – imagine the value of their French playing customer base!) in the eyes of the French authorities without looking for some payout.

The payout of course would be online poker and sports betting licenses.  Even if it’s just a sports betting license for William Hill, the Playtech decision kind of makes sense.  After all, the 2 companies are intrinsically linked through Playtech’s 29% interest in William Hill Online and ARJEL is hardly likely to rubber stamp William Hill’s sportsbetting license while their partner Playtech is taking casino players without a license.

One thing’s for sure, just like when all the big operators pulled out of the US in 2006, the opportunists in the industry will be happy to fill the void and take French players looking to play live blackjack, roulette and baccarat.

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