Social responsibility

ANJ flags concerns over licensees’ player protection strategies

| By Daniel O'Boyle
L'Autorité nationale des Jeux (ANJ) has approved or suggested improvements to player protection plans licensees were ordered to submit as part of the French gambling regulator’s increased focus on social responsibility.

In January this year the French government submitted a range of player protection regulations to the European Commission for approval. As part of these regulations, every licensee was required to submit a plan of action to ensure players could gamble sustainably.

This forms part of the ANJ’s new five-pillar strategy that will underpin its oversight of the market over the next three years.

The regulator, which was established last year to oversee all gambling in France, examined action plans from all operators active in the country, including the two former monopolies, La Française des Jeux (FDJ) and Pari-Mutuel Urbain (PMU).

As well as approving 96 plans, the ANJ said it may make decisions later on some land-based casinos which may only open at a later date because of restrictions related to the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

There was no indication that any plan was rejected outright.

The ANJ said it prioritised four main issues: prohibiting minors from gambling, allowing for self-exclusion and other checks, identifying and supporting potential problem gamblers and having a general policy that focused on protecting these groups.

Examining the plan of FDJ, the regulator approved the plan with no further conditions. It said the lottery operator “reflects the operator’s desire to meet” the French government’s objectives regarding protecting minors and problem players.

“It is distinguished in particular by the setting up of an ambitious program aimed at guaranteeing the ban on gambling by minors on all game types, innovative prevention initiatives, diversified and adapted to the profiles of players, and the existence of an advanced player identification and support system for pathological gamblers,” the regulator said.

For PMU, however, it raised some concerns and thus added further conditions.

“Further progress is expected from the operator to fully achieve the objective of preventing excessive or pathological gambling,” the ANJ said.

In particular, it said tools and resources for problem gamblers were not easily available, while identification of problem gamblers and training of employees were also not up to standard.

While the ANJ approved this plan, it told the operator it must improve these areas. This included providing technical specifications of its system to recognise problem gamblers, taking effort to strengthen its training system and ensuring the accessibility of RG tools.

Turning to private operators, online betting market leader Betclic was also approved with conditions following some concerns. The ANJ said the operator had “a vigorous action program aimed at preventing minors from accessing its gambling offerings, an identification and support system for excessive or pathological gambler that the operator intends to further improve during the current exercise and, finally, a proactive and structured company policy for the prevention of excessive gambling marked by ambitious objectives”.

However, it also raised questions about the availability of responsible gambling tools and said Betclic must ensure that these are accessible.

For Unibet operator Kindred, the operator’s indemnification systems for problem gambling were praised, but the ANJ said communications needed to make clearer that minors are prohibited from gambling.

With Winamax, meanwhile, clear signposting of the prohibition on minors gambling, availability of responsible gambling tools and a system for recognising problem gamblers were all recognised as areas the operator must improve to have an adequate plan.

The ANJ conducted a similar review of operators’ marketing strategies in January. In this review, it said it had “serious concerns” about the marketing strategies of FDJ and PMU, which it said appeared to target young people.