France is a country renowned for its cuisine, good wine, rich culture, and landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and Notre-Dame. Yet, the country also boasts a long history where gambling is concerned. France is home of some of the most iconic gaming establishments in the world and has greatly contributed to the development of many casino games including the ever-popular baccarat and roulette, with French mathematician Blaise Pascal being credited for the invention of the roulette wheel. The card deck that we widely use today has also originated in France and so has pari-mutuel betting.
One of the most popular forms of gambling in the country is sports betting. The French regulatory body, ARJEL (Autorité de régulation des jeux en ligne), reports sports betting has reached an unprecedented peak in 2018 as punters from the country collectively wagered over $1.1 billion in the period between June and September alone.
Both landbased and online sport betting in France is legal as long as the operators have received licenses from the French regulators. The country has opened its sports betting market to foreign competition, enabling offshore operators to apply for and receive a local license. It is not surprising many French punters have made the transition from landbased to online sportsbooks where they get to choose from hundreds of markets at more competitive prices.
In the following article, we cover the most popular betting markets at France-friendly online sportsbooks, the most common payment methods French punters can use to give their sportsbook balance a boost, and the bonuses they can claim to add more value to their online betting activities. But first, let’s take an in-depth look at the legal sports betting landscape in the country.
Legality and Regulation of Sports Betting in France
Online sports betting was legalized in France after the enactment of the 2010 Gambling Act and is overseen by ARJEL (Autorité de Régulation des jeux En Ligne) which translates as the Regulatory Authority for Online Games. This is an independent authority responsible for the regulations of online sports betting and horse racing in the country. On-track horse race betting falls under the regulations of the PMU (Pari Mutuel Urbain).
Most forms of online betting are allowed in France, the only exception being wagering on fantasy sports. Online sports betting operators must apply for a local license in order to legally service punters from the country. Each license issued by ARJEL remains valid for a period of five years, with applicants having the option to renew their permits once they expire.
Each licensee is subjected to inspection on behalf of ARJEL after a year of operation on the French market. In addition, the regulatory authority performs regular audits throughout the entire duration of the license. Those who are found guilty of violating the licensing terms outlined by ARJEL face sanctions that range from warnings to license withdrawals.
The French regulations on online sports betting and horse racing require each licensed operator to comply with a payback ratio of 85%. Punters themselves are not taxed on their profits because under French law, sports betting, unlike poker, is not considered a “lucrative” or a professional occupation.
However, this is not the case where online betting operators are concerned. Each licensed provider of online sports betting services is subjected to taxation. The interesting thing here is that the tax rates are based on the overall amount wagered by French punters annually and not only on the licensed operator’s gross betting revenue in the country.
Each licensee must contribute with 8.5% taxes on the total amount punters stake on its website annually, which corresponds to a gross revenue tax of around 57%. These high taxation rates make it next to impossible for licensed online sportsbooks to yield a satisfactory profit from their operations in France.
The figures released by ARJEL in 2015 further back this statement. According to the annual report released by the French regulatory authority, online sports betting increased by 30% during the year while the gross revenue of the operators grew by 15%. Nevertheless, it was estimated that ever since the regulations and tax system were introduced in 2010, licensed operators have suffered combined losses amounting to more than €220 million. In fact, only five out of eleven licensed online sportsbooks operating in the country have been able to turn a profit during 2015.
Unlicensed gambling sites are generally blocked from servicing punters from the country. Those who are caught offering bets to French residents without a proper license risk heavy penalties, including imprisonment and fines of €90,000. Advertising unauthorized betting sites is also prohibited by the French laws, with violators facing monetary sanctions of €100,000. French punters themselves are not legally prosecuted for participating in betting activities on unauthorized websites.
History and Key Sports Betting Laws in France
Sports betting, and gambling as a whole, is deeply rooted in the history of France. The roulette wheel may have originated in the country but this did not prevent its government from outlawing all types of gambling activities in 1836. An exception was made for horse race betting.
Despite the ban, gambling continued to thrive in France through underground gambling dens where the French placed their bets illegally. Pari-mutuel betting where bets are pooled and the winnings are divided between all participants was also invented in France in 1867.
Around that time, betting shops started to sprout like wild mushrooms enabling the French to wager on lotteries, pools, and fixed odds. To protect the thriving horse racing industry, the government passed yet another piece of legislation in 1891 which effectively prohibited fixed-odds wagering and pool betting on everything else but horses.
The 1891 Act brought about the Pari Mutuel Hippodrome, or PMH, a state-owned entity that was allowed to legally accept pooled wagers on horse races. As soccer became increasingly popular toward the end of the 19th century, illegal bookmaking operations went rampant. The French government had no other option but to legalize other forms of gambling on condition the betting services were provided by state-owned entities.
The law amendments that took place between 1920 and 1930 resulted in the establishment of the Pari Mutuel Urbain (PMU), responsible for horse race wagering, and the Francaise des Jeux (FDJ), which handled all other forms of betting. The two held a monopoly on gambling activities in the country for several decades.
As legal gambling brought about a number of benefits to the country and its citizens, France continued to lift the restrictions on betting. Pool bets on greyhound races were legalized in 1983 and five years later, the legal gambling age was reduced from 21 years to 18 years.
The year 2001 was marked by the introduction of some of the most crucial changes in France’s gambling legislation as the PMU and the FDJ were granted permission to provide online betting services. This significantly increased the revenue the two state-owned companies generated.
A decent portion of the profits went to the Centre National de Developpement du Sport, a state-owned institution that supports French athletes and sports clubs. The Centre is also involved in a number of charities and more notably the Red Cross and Odyssea, which is a charity that collects funds for cancer research.
The PMU and the FDJ retained their monopoly on online betting until 2010 when the French government passed a new Gambling Act (also known as Law No. 2010-476) under the pressure of the European Union. This gave foreign sports betting operators based in member states of the EU the opportunity to apply for local licenses. The Act also legalized online poker in the country but interactive casino games remain illegal under French law because the government considers them way too addictive.
The new legislation also resulted in the establishment of ARJEL, the local regulator of online betting services. All forms of online sports betting are currently legal in the country, with the exception of spread betting and eSports.
ARJEL does a very effective job at preventing unauthorized betting sites from illegally servicing punters from France. There is a dedicated team of investigators who search for unauthorized betting sites. Such operators are issued formal notices warning them to quit their illegal activities and those who fail to comply are heavily fined. The domains of unlicensed sportsbooks and online casinos servicing customers from France are blocked. Esports are presently illegal in the country but the PMU has demonstrated interest in offering such services.
France Sports Betting Coverage and Markets
Soccer is the dominant sport among French bettors who have no reason to complain of lacking options where betting markets are concerned. All sportsbooks accepting punts from the largest country in Western Europe offer a variety of betting options for soccer fans, boasting a broad coverage on competitions from major leagues like the French Ligue 1, the English Premier League, the German Bundesliga, the Italian Serie A, and the Spanish La Liga.
International competitions like the World Cup are also available at the fingertips of French punters. The odds for soccer markets are generally quite competitive but it is recommended to look around and compare what different bookmakers have to offer in order to find the best prices. There are many options where bet types are concerned but match betting, handicaps, totals, scores, and team goals remain among the most popular choices of French sports bettors.
France has a long tradition of horse race betting which competes with soccer in terms of popularity at France-friendly online sportsbooks. Watching horse races is the preferred pastime of many Frenchmen and a large portion of the profits generated through betting are reinvested in this sport.
Those who like to punt on horse races are presented with numerous betting options on competitions that take place on the racecourses throughout Europe. French punters can make an informed bet by going through the available information on the horses’ form and previous results. Popular bet types on horse racing include top 3 finish, win or each way, and forecasts.
The French are avid cycling fans, which is hardly surprising considering their country is home to the annual Tour de France, the most prestigious cycling competition in the world. Bets on this event are, of course, accepted but there are plenty of alternatives online for those looking to wager on the outcomes of other competitions such as Paris Roubaix, the Tour of Flanders, the Tour de Romandie, and Milan-San Remo. Betting on the outright winner remains one of the most popular bet types among French cycling fans.
Other sports commonly available for online betting in France are basketball, volleyball, baseball, tennis, hockey, handball, boxing, golf, snooker, and greyhound racing. Pre-match and in-play betting are both possible at very competitive odds.
A good France-friendly sportsbook would normally offer live streams to registered users along with podcasts, comprehensive statistics, and tips. All sportsbooks reviewed by Sportingpedia are mobile-responsive, allowing you to make punts on your smartphone or tablet while away from home.
Popular Odds Format in France
Decimal odds are the format preferred by punters from the country. Also known as European odds, these are easy to understand and work with which is great for casual punters who are just wading into the vast world of online sports betting. This odds format renders it easier to calculate the potential returns on your wager which is of essential for any successful punter.
Decimal odds display the bet’s price down to two decimal numbers and therefore, present you with a more accurate reflection on your chances of winning. A wager of €10 at odds of 3.50 returns €30.50 (€20.50 in net profit plus the initial €10 stake). As you can see, the potential return is calculated by multiplying the stake by the odds. The bigger the decimal number, the larger the return. For instance, if you wager €10 on a horse at bigger odds of 9.50, you will generate total profits of €90.50 if you win.
This simplicity of calculation does not exist with fractional odds, which render it more difficult to assess the value of a given bet. If you win a bet at decimal odds of 1.00, you break even since your wager returns the same amount as the one you have staked. Bets with odds under 1.00 are negative-expectation wagers, which is to say they return less money than the amount you have staked. A bookmaker would never offer you odds below 1.00.
The conversion from fractional into decimal odds is also easy to perform as all you have to do is divide the fraction’s numerator by its denominator and add 1 to the result. For example, if you are looking to convert odds of 9/4 into decimals, you divide 9 by 4, then add 1, and get 3.25.
This expression of the odds also gives you a good idea about the implied probability of winning with your bet. For the purpose, you divide 1 by the decimal odds and then multiply the result by 100, so in this case, the implied probability of winning a bet at odds of 3.25 is [1/3.25]* 100 = 30.76%.
Payment Solutions for Sports Bettors from France
Since France was one of the first six states to join the European Union in 1957, the official currency in the country is the EUR, which is supported by all online sportsbooks that accept French punters. Debit and credit cards by the brands Visa, Maestro, and Mastercard are often the payment method of choice of bettors from the country, although using virtual debit cards by Entropay and prepaid Paysafecards is also a convenient alternative.
Punters looking for higher levels of anonymity tend to use e-wallets like Neteller, Skrill, and ecoPayz but online banking, regular wire transfers, and checks are readily available as well. Most deposit methods allow for instant money transfers but payments conducted via wire transfers and paper checks normally require several business days.
France-friendly online sportsbooks take the safety of their customers’ information and payments quite seriously, which is why they always implement SSL encryptions, the same “masking” technology used by banks worldwide. Punters are normally prompted to approach sports betting responsibly and are given the option to set daily, weekly or monthly deposit limits on their accounts. Time-off periods and self-exclusion are also viable options for those who struggle to control their betting activities.
Bonuses and Rewards for Sports Bettors from France
An increasing number of French punters prefer to place their sports bets online because of the lucrative promotional deals web-based bookies treat them to. Some sportsbooks greet newcomers with first-deposit bonuses where the deposited sum is matched by a given percentage in free credits you can bet with.
However, most websites accepting punts from the country prefer to reward new customers with free bets, granted either immediately after registration or after the punter deposits for the first time. The customer is normally required to wager a predetermined minimum amount at specific odds to qualify for the offer.
In most cases, the punter is allowed to cash out only the winnings generated with the free bet while the free bet itself is not withdrawable. It should be noted these bonuses expire after a given period (usually a month or so) if left unused. They come with minimal wagering requirements which makes them all the more rewarding.
Returning customers from France get the chance to boost the value of their punts by redeeming various ongoing promotions like cashbacks on losing accumulators and enhanced odds. Some France-friendly sportsbooks have designed dedicated loyalty programs with multiple tiers where the customer is rewarded with points each time they make a punt on the website. The points can be converted into more credits to bet free with although some online bookmakers would allow you to exchange them for actual cash.
Customer Support at France Sports Betting Sites
The vast majority of betting sites that accept punts from la Republique support French as a language option, enabling customers from the country to manage their accounts and bet slips in their native language. Such websites would normally offer assistance in French as well, which makes it easier for punters to communicate fluently with the customer support staff.
Help is provided via dedicated live chat facilities that render it possible to get in touch with a support assistant within seconds. Apart from the short response times, French customers will benefit from highly professional assistance provided in a friendly and civilized manner. Remember a good France-friendly sportsbook would run a 24/7 live chat feature.
Other commonly available avenues of contact include email and telephone, with some betting operators offering toll-free lines for customers from France. Most good sports betting sites tend to feature detailed FAQ sections that include the answers to some of the most pressing questions a sports bettor may have.