France’s Gaming Regulator Gets More Power to Block Illegal Sites

France’s Gaming Regulator Gets More Power to Block Illegal Sites

France’s unified gaming regulator, L’Autorité Nationale des Jeux (ANJ), is getting more control over the online gaming segment. It can now directly order ISPs and search engines to block unlicensed online operators in the country.

Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower looms over the Paris landscape. As a gateway to new times, it’s a fitting backdrop to the changing times of France’s iGaming space. (Image: iGaming Business)

It does little good to create online gambling regulations and licenses if unlicensed operators can still target the market. Several countries have recently made changes to give their gaming regulators more control over the illegal segment, and France now joins them.

ANJ Now a Real Authority

France’s government has granted the ANJ the right to take action against illegal gaming operators that target the country. As a result, any site that doesn’t have a license is persona non grata, and the regulator can now more easily push it out of the market.

Previously, France’s gaming regulators, before unified through the creation of the ANJ, could intervene when they discovered an unlicensed platform, but shutting it down was difficult. Now, the regulator can tell ISPs and online search engines to block certain sites without having to cut through a lot of bureaucratic red tape like before.

The ANJ doesn’t have to prove that the site was necessarily targeting French consumers. It only has to consider it a threat to the country’s online gaming market.

Similar responses are emerging in other countries, including Sweden and the Netherlands. Lawmakers in both countries are taking a stronger position against unlicensed operators. More block requests in Australia have the Australian Communications and Media Authority asking for more power there, as well.

ANJ’s power comes through amendments to the country’s “Law to Democratize Sport.” This legislation primarily deals with sports and sports betting, but lawmakers snuck in the additional language before approving the law on March 2.

Betting Ads Get More Restrictions

In addition to clamping down on unlicensed operators, the ANJ is also clamping down on betting ads. It unveiled recently an action plan to better regulate the advertising practices of gambling operators. The plan includes “guidelines” and “recommendations” aimed at preventing excessive gambling and protecting minors.

The ANJ had committed to better regulate these practices in view of the “strong and unprecedented advertising pressure of betting operators that accelerated in 2021.” This was especially problematic during the Euro soccer championships in June and July, according to ANJ President Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin in comments to local media outlet AFP. She added that the regulator may ultimately impose sanctions in the event of a breach of the rules it lays down.

Six months later, the authority wanted to define clear rules that would be “fully operational” in September. This would see them arrive just in time for the FIFA World Cup in November and December. The rules follow the conclusion of an online consultation that included gambling operators, advertisers, health professionals and associations, sports federations, the educational community and the general public,

New Regulations Address “Fragmented” Environment

The new rules build on the decree on commercial communications related to gambling issued on November 4, 2020. They are “flexible legal tools” fitted to a “highly fragmented digital world,” according to Falque-Pierrotin.

As a result, advertising is prohibited when “it incites excessive gambling,” “trivializes” or “values” it, says the decree. The ANJ asserts that the advertising cannot contain “scenes of excitement or emotion of disproportionate intensity” or that equate the game with a “feat,” bringing the player closer to “an extreme sportsman.”

Advertising for gambling must also not present the activity as an alternative option to paid work. It cannot be a “solution to personal difficulties.” In addition, it cannot target children or adolescents. Therefore, the advertisements can’t use activities or cultural works that are popular with younger age groups.

The ANJ also gives suggestions for reducing the amount of advertising pressure. It suggests a maximum of three messages for all operators combined during each advertisement break on television and radio.

It suggests a maximum of “three commercial communications each day and per medium” for websites and social media.

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