The odds do not look promising for President Nicolas Sarkozy getting re-elected in the French presidential elections in April 2012. Both William Hill and Ladbrokes put his re-election prospects at 6/4, while the odds for his main contender, the Socialist Francois Hollande, are 4/6 with Ladbrokes, while William Hill are shorter still at 4/7.
Whose victory would better suit the gambling industry? Those who like to play it safe would undoubtedly argue a Sarkozy victory is a more welcome outcome. After all, it was Sarkozy and his party the Union of Popular Movement (UMP) that oversaw the opening of the online gambling market. It was the not the most liberal opening as the two state-backed operators, PMU and FDJ, kept their land-based monopoly on sports betting and lotteries, and the chosen tax regime based on turnover makes the French market the most unprofitable online gambling market in Europe. The UMP-led government has hinted that it is willing to look again at the tax regime after the elections.
While Francoise Hollande has not expressed any views on gambling legislation, his party has not exactly distinguished itself for a liberalising fervour.
The Socialists also feel that the legislation favoured online operators to the detriment of consumers and public health issues. Many Socialists have previously complained that the opening of the market was to the benefit of Sarkozy’s friends, citing the example of Alexandre Balkany, hired as General Manager of PokerStars and son of Patrick Balkany, National Assembly UMP member and close friend of the president.
Not all Socialists are against the gambling legislation as not all UMP Assembly members were convinced in the merits of liberalising online gambling. 29 UMP assembly members either abstained or did not vote when the gambling legislation was presented for a vote.
But Sarkozy has the capability to control his party. Does Hollande? Even if Hollande does not wish to re-examine the legislation, it is not clear that he can keep his MPs or senators at bay. Sarkozy is a politician that has used his party machine to get into office, while it seems that the Socialist party is using Hollande to propel itself into power.
Until the gambling legislation is firmly anchored and the liberalisation of the market irrevocable, for now it is perhaps prudent for the gaming industry to stick with the devil you know.