French Senate approves shift to GGR tax for gambling

| By Daniel O'Boyle
France’s Senate has passed a budget bill for 2020, including an amendment to calculate gambling tax based on gross gaming revenue (GGR) rather than turnover. The budget amendments still require approval from the National Assembly before they can come into law.

France’s Senate has passed a budget bill for 2020, including an amendment to calculate gambling tax based on gross gaming revenue (GGR) rather than turnover.

The bill will now be passed to the National Assembly, where the amendments must be ratified before the budget can become law.

Due to shift away from the turnover-based model, the tax rates will change. The tax on horse race betting will come to 19.9% of GGR, for sports betting the rate will be 33.8%, and for online poker 36.7%.

In addition, social security payments will also be based on revenue rather than turnover, resulting further changes to rates. For horse racing, this will become a 6.8% GGR levy, for sports betting, 10.7% and for online poker, 4.1%.

A further 10.7% levy will be applied to online sports betting, to be allocated to the National Center for the Development of Sport.

When all the taxes are combined, this means that operators will have to pay 37.7% for horse racing, 40.8% for online poker, 55.2% for online sports betting and 44.5% of GGR for retail sports betting.

Previously, gambling taxes were based on the amount of money that players staked on the games. The main tax rates were 13.2% for online horse race betting, 7.1% for retail horse race betting, 9.3% for sports betting, and 2% for online poker, while the social security contribution was 1.8% for horse racing, 1.8% for sports betting and 0.2% for poker.

The Senate said that the change allows operators and the state to “share the luck” by ensuring that tax bills will adjust for fluctuations in the success of punters.

“In recent years, several reports have highlighted the binding effect of the levy on players' stakes and not on GGR,” the Senate explained. “[Online gambling regulator] ARJEL thus notes, in its 2015-2016 activity report, that ‘the tax on stakes is too burdensome, and prevents the balanced development of this market.”

The Senate noted as the bulk of money staked was returned to players as winnings, operators were effectively “taxed on sums which they do not receive”.

“The report of the Court of Auditors of October 2016 on the evaluation of the regulation of the games confirmed that the French taxation was heavy because of this choice of base on the bets, especially as the rates are high.

“The report believes that it would be questionable to continue to use as a base the bets that only pass through the operator, rather than being held as revenue. Thus, ARJEL and the Court of Auditors propose to change the tax base to GGR.”

The senate also included capped tax on each hand of poker at €1, stating that it would not be viable for operators without such a limit.

The budget projects that, with the new laws in place, in 2020 it will make €586m from sports betting taxes, €420m from horse race betting taxes and €66m from poker taxes, in addition to €787m from taxes on casinos and €2.48bn from tax from La Française des Jeux, which was privatised last month.

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