04/06/2010 12:00AM

France opens up online betting market

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The French Chamber of Deputies, the equivalent of the House of Representatives in the United States, voted on Tuesday to allow online betting to be opened up to all comers. The vote, which passed by 299-to-223, means that the French parimutuel system, Pari-Mutuel Urbain, has effectively lost its monopoly in the French betting industry.

The move means that bids will now be taken from other companies to accept betting on both horse racing and other sports. Horse race betting - flat, jumps, and trotting - will continue to be available solely on a pari-mutuel basis from both the Pari-Mutuel Urbain and any newcomers whose license is approved by the nation's Online Games Regulation Authority. Sports betting in France will now be available on a fixed-odds basis, as it is in Britain and Ireland, but only online.

In 2009, about 10 percent of the Pari-Mutuel Urbain's total horse race betting handle, or about $13.5 billion, was made online.

To counteract the new bill, the Pari-Mutuel Urbain has entered into an arrangement with Irish bookmakers Paddy Power to receive fixed-odds online wagers on sports other than horse racing. Pari-Mutuel Urbain and its the ontrack branch, the Pari-Mutuel Hippodrome, have had a monopoly on race betting in France for more than a century.

The parimutuel system was invented in France by Joseph Oller in 1867.