888 Holdings has officially announced its withdrawal from the French market by relinquishing its online poker license. The online gaming operator has become the latest company to leave France and has withdrawn all subsidiary products such as Ad Astra, Sofun Gaming, and Betkup.fr.
This departure signals the end of a unique partnership between 888 Holdings and Microgaming to offer online poker on a single platform in France. The two operators successfully obtained an online poker license from the French governing body (ARJEL) in 2010. The two companies were able to offer different skins and operated various social gaming and online betting products in France.
Despite the individual successes of both companies, the joint venture experienced some challenges leading to the withdrawal from the French market. The network lost three important skins, PokerXtrem, MyPok, and 200% Poker, since its debut in France. The first two skins merged and migrated to the Partouche network while 200% Poker shut down as a result of a prolonged dormant period.
The French poker market has also been on a steady decline with the gross gaming revenue declining by over 10% and the active dot.fr players dropping by a similar percentage over the past couple of years. Although the sports and horse betting market has shown increases in the French market, ARJEL recently announced changes to its sports betting legislation to restrict betting on certain football and basketball matches.
Given these challenges, 888 Holdings withdrew from a market with very stringent gaming regulations and high tax rates. The gaming giant follows several operators including Titan Poker in leaving a declining market. The departure of a top operator signals the need for reform in the French market for online gambling. ARJEL has been discussing the possibility of working with other European regulators to find ways to boost business. However, until such reform, the French online gambling market may see more operators leave a slowly declining market.