Gambling in France
History of Gambling in France
By Reno Rollins
From art to cuisine, France has a rich history in many different areas. And while sometimes overlooked, they have also played an important role in the world of gambling.
After Muslims helped introduce playing cards to the rest of the world, the French added their own contribution. They removed one of the cards representing a male nobleman and replaced it with the Queen card (sometime in the 16th century). This became known as the “French Pack” and would eventually evolve into the 52-card deck commonly used today.
French Contributions to Betting Culture
Baccarat was played primarily in Italy in the 15th century, but the French modified the rules and created the popular game Chemin de Fer.
Roulette was also invented in France, and it made its debut in the 17th century. In 1842, two French brothers (Francois and Louis Blanc) had the idea to insert a zero on the roulette wheel, thus increasing the house odds.
Blackjack can also trace its origins to France, as it evolved from a game called “Vingt en Un” (or “21”).
Pari-mutuel betting originated in France in 1870.
Slot machines were made legal in 1988. The current success of gambling in France can be traced back to this time. And while casino games and poker are very popular, much of the gaming revenue continues to be generated by slot machines.
Gambling Laws in France
Gambling in France is controlled by the government. Le Pari Mutuel Urbain (PMU) and Le Pari Mutuel Hippodrome (PMH) are public bodies set up by the authorities to control horse racing, lotteries and all other manner of sports betting. Casinos are authorized by the Ministry of the Interior. Currently, there are over 160 licensed casinos in the country.
A special police force also exists to investigate all possible crimes related to gambling, whether it be horse doping, race fixing or illegal betting. They are known as Sous Direction des Courses et des Jeux.
The minimum age to gamble is 18.
Casinos in France
The city in France with the distinction of having the most casinos is Paris. Meanwhile, the largest casino in the country is Casino de Divonnes les Bains (located in Divonne-les-Bains).
All casinos require their customers to be at least 18 years old, and many also have a dress code (jacket and tie).
In all, 175 cities in France provide 189 legal gambling facilities (including casinos and pari-mutual facilities). Below is a partial list of the facilities available:
Aix-en-Provence (CasinoPasino D’Aix-en-Provence )
Online Betting in France
With high speed connections becoming more common throughout the country, more and more French citizens are turning to the Internet to get their gambling fix. French Roulette, Poker, Slots and Blackjack are among the most popular games.
Online sports betting is also popular, although this has been a subject of much controversy in recent years. France has tried very hard to keep their monopoly over sports betting, but this has become increasingly more difficult as outside companies have encroached on their territory.
When a Maltese company was banned from offering online sportsbook services in France, the case eventually made it all the way to France’s top court. Their ruling overturned the previous decision to ban the company.
In addition, France has been under pressure from the European Union to liberalize their state-run betting monopolies. As of this writing, France has recently stated that they would be willing to legalize Internet betting on horse racing and football (soccer).
Horse Racing in France
Horse racing in France is obviously popular, as the sheer number of race tracks will attest to. Over 200 tracks are available in cites such as Zonza, Vire, Toulouse, Richelieu, Paris, Pons, Mauron, Lucon, La Capelle, Guer, Durtal, Deauville, Chinon, Bazas and many others.
Around 20% of the betting takes place at the track, while the other 80% of the bets are made at PMU licensed kiosks and bars.
The Longchamp track in Paris is particularly popular, and it draws in over 50,000 spectators, including tourists from all over the globe.
With over 8,000 off-track outlets across the country, France’s pari-mutual betting system (or PMU) is the 3rd largest in the world.
France also offers a horse track racino in Agon-Coutainville. Besides being able to bet on the races, this racino also has Boule, table and poker games, video poker and slot machines.
Poker in France
French poker rooms are highly regarded, and the country is home to many prestigious poker tournaments throughout the year. The leading tournament is the Grand Prix de Paris, which is held annually at the Aviation Club de France. This tournament is also the first stop on the World Poker Tour. France is also home to numerous charity poker events and tournaments.
Given that France invented the modern 52-card deck, it’s only appropriate that poker would be fashionable throughout the country.
Lottery in France
The lottery first appeared in France in the sixteenth century and has been present ever since. The French national lottery is state controlled, and all lottery activities in the country are administered by La Francaise des Jeux. There are numerous games to choose from, and new ones are introduced periodically. Some proceeds from the lottery are used to finance social causes and humanitarian efforts.
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