ANJ says it is aware of several illegal operators using this method to trick players into gambling on their sites. The regulator monitors Facebook daily and is working with the social media giant over the matter.
To date, ANJ has reported approximately 400 website URLs to Meta, the parent company of Facebook. This has resulted in the closure of 137 user accounts on the social network.
ANJ says the main licensees being targeted by illegal sites are the Barrière and JOA groups. Individuals create fake promotional images using brands owned by these approved operators as a way of enticing players to their unlicensed sites that have no affiliate with the licensees.
These images often include links to false download pages for mobile apps supposedly from the licensed operators. However, players are instead going to the illegal websites.
Online casino still not legal in France
At present, online casino is not legal in any form in France. Internet sports wagering and horse racing betting is legal through approved operators, while licensed land-based casinos are also legal.
By gambling with unlicensed sites, ANJ said, there are multiple risks for the player. These include not being paid winnings, payment fraud, having their personal data stolen and no protection in the event of a dispute.
“If in doubt about the legality of the gambling site on which you are about to bet, consult the list of sites approved by the ANJ,” the regulator said. “You can also consult the blacklist of sites that have been administratively blocked by the ANJ.
“We invite anyone who notices the presence of fake advertisements to report them.”
French illegal gambling worth up to €1.5bn per year
The warning comes after ANJ last month said France’s illegal gambling market could be worth up to €1.50bn (£1.28bn/$1.62bn). This, it said, would account for more than 10% of the total wagered across the country each year.
Research published by ANJ identified 510 illegal websites generating traffic. Of these, 21 alone are generating 60% of illegal gambling traffic.
The study by PwC estimates gross gaming revenue generated by illegal gambling is between €748m and €1.5bn. This makes up between 5% and 11% of the total gambling market, which was worth a record €12.9bn in 2022.