The popularity of online gambling in France continues to grow since May 2010 when the country introduced strict regulation and allowed sports betting, horse race betting and poker via the Internet. New figures released this week show that the market is seeing record growth in the first three months of 2018, driven mainly by the larger number of active player accounts.
On Monday, the French online gambling regulator ARJEL (Autorite de regulation des jeuxenligne) released its Quarterly Review of the Online Gaming Market for the three months ending March 31, 2018. The figures are based on official data filed by all licensed online gambling operators and show that every online gaming activity regulated by ARJEL is growing. Internet-based sports betting operators handled wagers worth €847 million from January 1 though March 21, up 34 per cent over the same period in 2017, when all wagers totalled €633 million. The gross gambling revenue grew at an even faster pace, seeing 55 per cent rise to €147 million compared to €94 million in the first quarter last year.
The regulator explains that this growth is a result of the larger number of active player accounts. It should be noted, however, that one individual can have more than one online gaming account as long as it is with different operators. While in the first three months of 2017, there were around 1.5 million active accounts, by the end of March this year, they have increased to 1.9 million. Although the majority of online gamblers and punters are still men, women are quickly rising in numbers. Women were up 30 per cent to 222,000 in Q1, while the online accounts owned by men, in comparison, were 1.63 million or an increase of 24 per cent year-on-year.
The surge in female accounts is even more striking in online sports betting where it soared 69 per cent to 134,000, while the number of male punters on the web increased 42 per cent. Apparently, not so many women are interested in online poker and horse racing – there were 73,000 female online poker accounts (up 7%) and 54,000 women who wagered on horse racing (up 5%). The promotions and bonuses offered by sportsbooks and gambling operators were an important driving force for the rise in accounts. Growing 53 per cent to €19.6 million, bonuses attracted 462,500 weekly active bettors (up 36 per cent).
Sports Betting Emerges as the Favourite Activity for French Online Gamblers
The fastest growing segment of the online gambling market is sports betting with a record handle of €847 million during the first quarter of 2018 (up 34%). The online accounts that engaged in sports betting activities every week increased with more than 120,000 to 462,500. A total of 1.3 million player accounts were active at least once on sports betting sites during the entire period, up 40 per cent from 900,000 in Q1 2017. The wagers placed on football events rose 34 per cent to €465 million, making football the most popular sports betting market among online punters in France. In fact, it accounts for 55 per cent of the total wagering handle in the first three months this year.
Another popular market is tennis where wagers grew 26 per cent to €163 million (19% of the total handle), followed by basketball where bets were 53 per cent up to €125 million (around 15% of the overall wagering handle). The wagers on the 2018 Winter Olympics were only €4.4 million and nearly half of them were placed as live bets. Clearly, sports betting emerges as French online gamblers’ favourite activity, while the other two segments are not as popular. Around €270 million was wagered on horse racing events in the first quarter of 2018, an increase of 9 per cent over the same period of 2017. The number of weekly active accounts in this market rose 6 per cent to 148 million, while bonus offers were worth €8.1 million. The revenue from bets on horse racing saw a modest increase of 8 per cent to €65 million.
The ARJEL report reveals much more interesting online poker trends, however. Spending on cash games rose 18 per cent to €1.1 billion while at the same time, the number of weekly active accounts decreased 1 per cent to 79,000. This was partially the reason behind the 2 per cent decline in cash game revenue to €24.1 million. The weekly active tournament players, on the other hand, increased 5 per cent to 252,000. The fees of online poker tournaments totalled €594 million (up 14%), while the revenue from these events was worth €44.8 million (up 15%).