France’s regulated online poker market continued to contract last quarter, as licensed operators’ revenue in the three months to the end of June fell 11% year-on-year to €70m from €78m.
The drop was driven by a 9% fall in the number of active poker players in the quarter to 711,000 from 778,000 in the same period last year, on which French regulator ARJEL commented: “This decrease in activity, partly seasonal, may also be linked to a form of cannibalization by the Euro 2012 football tournament, which without necessarily having changed poker players to sports bettors, mobilized a large number of French people every evening in front of their television, diverting them from other activities.”
While poker remained the largest market segment in France – generating 41% of gross gaming revenue (GGR) from the market in Q2 2012 – this was down from 50% a year earlier due to poker’s continued decline in combination with improved returns from betting on sports and horse racing.
French-licensed operators’ total revenue from the three regulated product verticals increased by 8% year-on-year to €170m from €157m. The total number of active online accounts – 1.252 million – was however only 1% higher than the previous year, due to the sharp 67,000 decline in active poker player accounts in the period. The popularity of online gambling also continued to skew away from the 18-24 year age group towards older demographics, most dramatically in sports betting, where 18-24 year olds as a percentage of the total betting on sports in France contracted to 24% of the total from 40% in just 12 months.
In poker, turnover from poker ring games, impacted by high levels of rake within the dot.fr market, was 6% down year-on-year from €1.85bn to €1.74bn, the latter figure representing an adjustment on the actual figure of €1.52bn to take account of several operators “changing their calculation method for accounting for cash game bets”, according to ARJEL. The overall drop in cash-game turnover was however marginally offset by a 24% rise in tournament fees to €345m from €278m.
The 11% fall comes off a back of a 3% fall in poker GGR in the preceding quarter, with a string of smaller operators – Chilipoker.fr, TitanPoker.fr and Winga.fr – also having left the market since the end of the reporting period, due to tax rates making the market unviable and unprofitable.
In sports however, Euro 2012 betting saw French bettors wager 28% more in the three months to the end of March than they did a year earlier, as turnover increased to €187m from €146m. Licensed operators’ total revenue was up 39% to €35m from €25m, with ARJEL saying the differential percentage increases were due to “a lower level of pay-out ratio” – 81% in the same period in 2011 compared to 83% in 2012. Football acccounted for the majority of betting activity – 57% – ahead of tennis with 25%.
In horse racing, dominated by former monopoly PMU, turnover increased 9% to €278m from €255m, with GGR up 20% to €65m from €54m.
The mobile channel also continued to make inroads, with an average of 17% of French players of licensed sites using smartphones and tablets during the quarter, with 18% of sports bettors, 14% of horse bettors and 18% of poker players making use of the channel.
But despite heavy spending around the Euro 2012 football championship, which saw monthly spend rise to close to €25m above the current monthly average of €15m, spending on print, TV, radio, film, internet and online media also contracted 25% year-on-year to €55m from €73m,as operators continued their retreat from costly marketing land-grabs aimed at securing market share in the recently regulated territory.