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France can now block all unlicensed gambling sites

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The National Gambling Authority of France was given new enforcement powers on March 2, 2022, that will allow the authority to block unlicensed websites whether they target French customers specifically or not. This is a departure from the earlier enforcement remit which only allowed for the blocking of sites specifically aimed at French customers.

L’Autorité Nationale des Jeux (ANJ) was created by Article 34 of Law No 2010-476 (French Gambling Act 2010). On January 1, 2020, the entity was given powers over online gambling that had previously been under the purview of the now-dissolved and assimilated Autorite de Regulation des Jeux en Ligne (ARJEL).

While not specifically aimed at online casino gaming, which is not licensed in France, the “law of March 2 aimed at democratizing sport in France” contained certain subsections with language directly related to match-fixing that was open-ended and boundless within the realm of online gambling regulation enforcement.

Language and Enforcement Timeline

According to a report in iGaming Business, the specific language accomplishing this and the process to accomplish the blocking (inter alia) is: “The president of ANJ may address any person whose offer of online gambling is accessible on French territory […] a formal notice to cease this activity. This formal notice […] orders its addressee to cease this promotion and invites it to submit its observations within five days.”

Were the five-day deadline to pass without corrective action from the operator, the regulator could then contact search engines, internet service providers (ISP), and presumably payment processors and order them to “take any useful measure intended to prevent access”.

While the regulator rarely publishes lists of its actions or even blacklists prior to censoring, it has blocked more than 250 gambling sites in the past. These sites specifically targeted French customers, whether within the country or in any other jurisdiction under French control as the laws of France apply to residents of all of the country’s territories and holdings for the most part.

In 2021 the regulator changed tack and publicized the names of two highly popular French-facing betting sites – Cbet and Stake.com.

A Growing Trend to Protect Consumers (revenues)

Were the ANJ to extend the enforcement action beyond sites competing with French-licensed operators who can currently only offer sports betting, poker, and horse racing, the regulator would join a small club of European markets taking action against any site available to its residence whether focused on local customers or not. Sweden has proposed blocking all non-Lotteriinspektionen licensed operators and the Dutch gambling regulator, De Kansspelautoriteit (KSA) has ordered all operators without a license in the Netherlands to block all Dutch residents. However, Finland’s Constitutional Committee has cautioned against any such measures such as payment blocking stating that it would be a “far-reaching restriction of fundamental rights” under the Finnish Constitution and that the government should find “less intrusive” ways to accomplish its goals.

The French regulator said: “This legislative development is a major step forward in the fight against the illegal offer of gambling in France, which the ANJ has made a priority project for 2022.”

Source:

France’s ANJ given power to block all unlicensed sites, iGaming Business, March 3, 2022