French Study Finds a Quarter of Poker Players Play on Gray Market Sites French Study Finds a Quarter of Poker Players Play on Gray Market Sites
Leon Riskin, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License

A study by the French Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT) and the Observatory of games (ODJ) has found that 23.5% of poker players play at sites not regulated by ARJEL.

The study puts a frightening figure on what was previously suspected. French cash game poker has been in decline almost since regulation was introduced in 2010. Former ARJEL President Jean François Vilotte blamed the trend on high volume players “either moving out of the country or playing on illegal websites.”

The French system taxes every pot at 2%, whether there is a flop or not. ARJEL reports that this is the equivalent of 37% of gross gaming revenue, the highest in any regulated country. Due to this burden, operators have had to raise the rake, reduce VIP programs, and cut marketing budgets. Gray market operators avoiding such tax rates can offer attractive alternatives to French players.

The exaggerated impact the taxes have on online poker is visible in the figures for horse race betting and sports betting, the other two regulated gambling activities in France. Only 8.9% of horse race bettors and 4.5% of sports bettors use “gray” market sites, according to the study.

The big two regulated sites in the French market are Winamax and PokerStars France. Most other major European rooms and networks have a French-regulated presence, including PartyPoker and iPoker. But smaller sites and networks without licenses that have continued to allow French players to play have proliferated, according to the study.

By French decree, ISPs are required to block sites that operate without an ARJEL license, but the order is apparently ineffective. As a result, the regulator has taken to humorous advertisements to try and encourage players to play on legitimate sites.