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Banks: the big winners of the online betting market opening?

April 1, 2009 2009

The French gaming market opening has been expected and welcomed by many, but some pieces of information on means of payment contained in the draft bill must not go unnoticed.

According to the French gaming bill, online gaming operators will be submitted to a licensing process. Licenses will be granted on the basis of operators’ compliance with a cahier des charges (a set of rules and criteria).

This “cahier des charges” is still unknown since it is yet to be defined by decree and then implemented by the ARJEL (the future gambling authority). However the government has already made clear that the “cahier des charges” will contain a set of rules on “means of payment for stakes and earnings”.

As far as means of payment used for “payouts” are concerned, the draft bill requires players to establish a direct debit system with operators’ bank account information. It is therefore reasonable to predict that the “cahier des charges” will organise a system where payouts payments can only be made on players’ declared bank accounts and that cash payout payments will be forbidden.

Stakes payments will be capped as one of the measures of the draft bill to fight addiction. As a consequence it is expectable that the “cahier des charges” will have a provision aiming to limit the amount of money which can be spend with a same means of payment through the fixation of a monthly threshold.

However, the Ministry of Budget’s press release of March 5th did not raise the above mentioned measures but other measures aiming to prohibit anonymous means of payment or to require players to only use means of payments which are linked to a bank account.

One question still remains: will French players have to use a credit card in order to pay for their stakes? In many other countries authorising online gambling, a wide range of means of payment can be used by players such as credit cards, digital money accounts, prepaid cards, whether anonymous or not, etc.

Discussions are still in progress, consequently nothing is certain yet and many several different solutions can be adopted. The only piece of certainty is that it will be difficult to strike a right balance between:

– on one hand, protecting minors and fighting against money laundering, which justify the implementation of restrictive measures,

– and on the other hand, ensuring players’ privacy (stemming from the refusal that bankers should know whether their client like gambling) and applying E.U. competition law to payment service providers (especially at a time when the Single European Payment Area “SEPA” project is about to break through on harmonising rules on payment in the Euro-Zone and improving competition through the new integrated retail payment market).


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