The European Commission has reportedly opened an official investigation into the French government’s controversial decision to grant the recently-privatized Francaise Des Jeux (FDJ) a 25-year nationwide monopoly on the operation of lotteries and sportsbetting.
According to a Monday report from Le Monde published by The Canadian News, the executive branch of the European Union is to examine whether the move violated its rules on state aid, which prohibit its 27 member nations from implementing policies that may distort competition law to give any enterprise an unfair competitive edge over a commercial rival.
The Canadian News reported that the formerly state-owned FDJ was privatized via a public flotation in late-2019 as part of an attempt by the administration of French President Emmanuel Macron to revitalize the once dominant enterprise. This campaign purportedly resulted in the country banking approximately €1.8 billion ($2.1 billion) in cash after selling off 52% of its stake to take its overall interest in the Paris-headquartered operator down to just 20%.
The privatization, which encompassed a payment of €380 million ($449 million) for the maintenance of FDL’s nationwide lottery and sportsbetting monopoly, reportedly also saw retail buyers snap up 40.5% of the floated shares to give the post-sale enterprise a commercial value of about €11 billion ($13 billion). However, the move was heavily criticized at the time while a campaign that had sought to stop the transaction even managed to collect in the region of 4.7 million signatures.
The European Commission has now reportedly declared that it will be looking into the privatization in order to make sure that the nationwide lottery and sports wagering monopoly held by FDJ does not provide the operator with ‘an undue economic advantage’ in the country of around 67.4 million inhabitants. The authority purportedly proclaimed that the exclusivity held by the enterprise embraces ‘the operation, on the one hand, of lottery games marketed in a physical distribution network and online alongside, on the other hand, sportsbetting marketed in a physical distribution network.’
Reportedly read a statement from the European Commission…
“Following the receipt of two complaints relating to the sum of €380 million paid by FDJ to France in remuneration of the exclusive rights granted, the European Commission will verify that the remuneration complies with market conditions. The opening of an in-depth investigation gives France and all interested parties the opportunity to comment on the measure in question but it does not in any way prejudge the outcome of the investigation.”