France Authorizes Small Casino Cruises in Domestic French Waters

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017 | Written by April Bergman
France Authorizes Small Casino Cruises in Domestic French Waters

France has authorized casino cruises with a limited number of gambing machines onboard. The Official Gazette announced the new regulations, which include ships and ferries which operate on a regular intra-community route.

The casino cruise law is quite similar to a law passed in British Columbia, Canada a couple of years ago. Like the BC casino cruise law, smaller domestic ships and barges are allowed to offer limited gambling with electronic gaming machines (EGMs).

This provides a much-need revenue source for small time shipping vessels which need all the additional cash they can get. Such gaming is considered minor and less prone to have a social impact.

French Casino Cruise Laws

Effective July 1, 2017, vessels flying the French flag can offer up to 15 gaming machines. Those French vessels must have a regular Point A-to-Point B destination, but do not have to be on international waters in order to allow gambling with slot machines.

French vessels which operate in international waters are permitted to have more than 15 gaming machines. Because such ships are sailing in international waters, no gaming laws apply.

Gaming Regulations and Oversight

As for the casino cruises on rivers and coastal waters, the ships must apply for a casino license with the French Ministry of the Interior. The gaming operator and the ship owner cannot contract for more than 15 years at a time.

The Interior Ministry oversees all staff members, including dealers, cashiers, and pit bosses. Due to the small time nature of the operations, the cashier position and controller station at the entrance of the gaming area can be combined.

French Gambling Industry

Gambling is popular in France, which is the land of origin for many of the most popular casino games: Roulette, Baccarat, and Craps are a few examples. Most gambling in France is regulated by one of two overseers: Pari Mutuel Urbain (PMU) and Francaise des Jeux (FDJ).

The PMU regulates horse racing and pari-mutuel horse betting in France. The FDJ regulates lottery betting and all other gambling games. To operate a brick-and-mortar gambling operation, a venue must be licensed by the FBJ.

ARJEL: French Online Gambling

The online gambling industry is banned in France, except in a few rare instances. That was not always the case, but like many places where land-based gambling is a notable pastime, those land interests lobby for bans on Internet and mobile gaming. ARJEL announced that sports betting was up 17% for the calendar year 2016.

Since 2010, ARJEL (Autorite de regulation des jeux en ligne or “Regulatory authority for online games”) is the French regulator for sports betting. ARJEL was created under Article 34 of the French Gambling Act. When it first began operation, unregulated gaming sites paid no attention to ARJEL’s authority. When the regulated asked Internet service providers (ISPs) to help with enforcement, the ISPs did not take the regulator seriously. Then the Tribunal de grande instance de Paris ruled that the ISPs could be fined €10,000 per day if they did not comply with ARJEL, which quickly meant enforcement was tight.

Casinos on the French Riviera

Monte Carlo is on the French Riviera in the small principality of Monaco. The world famous casinos of Monte Carlo give Frenchmen an opportunity to play in one of the leading gaming destinations within a relatively short travel distance.

French Casino Cruise Industry

Given the long coastline of France along the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, it is a surprise that France has a large casino cruise industry. While the recent law suggests that French casino cruises do leave ports and are considered in the legal system, few casino cruise lines seem to advertise. The dozens upon dozens of land-based casinos might make it less profitable to operator huge, expensive cruise ships for the sake of gambling.