France has a very long history of gambling, going back hundreds of years, and gambling has always been very popular in this country. We actually have the French to thank for adding the Queen to the deck of cards, which happened all the way back in the 1500’s. (1)
France features a massive array of land-based casinos, totaling 189 different ones in 175 different cities. (2) The French are much better known for their penchant towards casino games than poker, and after all, this is the birthplace of Roulette and it remains very popular in this country.
There are actually only a total of 119 poker tables in the country, at 53 different poker rooms. (3) So we’re obviously talking a lot of very small poker rooms here although some are larger like the world famous Aviation Club in Paris, which is still very small by normal standards at 15 poker tables and you have to be a member of the club to be admitted, so if you are a tourist and don’t mind spending the €100 annual membership fee and are over 18 with ID they will let you play there.
So the live poker scene here isn’t anything to get all that excited about really and I don’t think anyone visits France for the poker, but if you do find yourself visiting this country there are a lot of different poker rooms out there, just don’t expect a lot of tables at them.
Online Poker In France
The online poker scene in France is a whole different matter though, and in fact France was the first country to regulate online poker, back in 2010, when the French Gambling Act was passed. (4) Players had already been playing online poker for years, at offshore sites located in online countries, and this new law sought to limit their play to licensed and regulated sites, where the government could then extract quite a bit of tax money.
So this isn’t unlike what we ended up seeing in the states of New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware in the United States, and also in other countries that followed with this scheme, however France has been less successful at keeping their players focused on the licensed action and away from the unlicensed sites.
In spite of several French online sites such as Pokerstars.fr and Winimax doing quite well in terms of popularity, with both generally in the top 10 of all poker sites in the world in terms of traffic, along with Partypoker.fr and iPoker.fr being among the top 20 (5), a lot of players aren’t all that satisfied with the rake scheme at the French sites, which is quite a bit higher than you see at the offshore sites.
The problem is that the games in France are taxed fairly heavily so the rake here is well above the industry average, which many players object to, especially those who have been marginally successful at typical rate rates but struggle more to make things work with the higher rake that the French rooms have to charge due to the additional taxes they must pay.
So estimates are that almost half of the online poker players have accounts at offshore poker sites, something that the French government wants to curtail but thus far they haven’t been successful in doing so. One of the more popular brands that still accept French players on a more “offshore” basis is PartyPoker. Check out their review and links at the top of this France Poker Law resource page.
The Options For French Residents
In a way, France operates a lot like the United States did before Black Friday, they are looking to ban offshore poker sites by way of French law in the same way that the U.S. did by way of their law, however the problem you run into is that these poker rooms operate in other countries where French law does not apply.
This doesn’t mean that the French regulators are just sitting still during all of this, for instance they are looking to internet service providers to block these sites although that hasn’t put an end to the matter as players still find ways to access these sites. You can block a web site but when you’re talking using software that can be a different story and a lot of players simply refuse to be told where they can play.
There are a lot of players who do choose to play on the regulated French sites though of course, as evidenced by the traffic, and although the numbers have declined, that’s been the case worldwide in the online poker industry and French poker continues to be both very popular and relatively healthy.
With the movement toward regulated poker though, and particularly with some new entries lately, who need to turn away French residents from their main sites in order to maintain their French licenses, good offshore options are becoming more and more limited and we’re getting to the point where players must turn to smaller poker rooms where lack of traffic becomes a concern, so this alone has us moving more and more toward making the regulated poker rooms more appealing.
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