Allez les bleus! French football fans were treated to a second win at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, after their team overcame Croatia in the final to write their own history. But it wasn’t just the eleven Frenchmen on the pitch who were pushing boundaries and setting new records.
The World Cup is always a highlight of the global sports betting calendar, with punters wagering billions on everything from the outright winner to the next corner kick. But this year, the stats show the gambling side of the World Cup particularly captured the imagination of fans in France – perhaps for obvious reasons.
According to statistics released by the French online gambling regulator, Arjel, the 2018 World Cup saw a significant increase in betting activity from 2014, and in total, more than the amount wagered on the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 European Championship put together. In other words, there’s no denying it was a bumper year for online bookmakers in France.
According to their findings, French gamblers wagered an impressive €690 million on the event, up from just €290 million in 2014. This was also a gain on the €270 million wagered during the UEFA European Championships just two years ago.
Some €380 million of that total was wagered across its locally licensed betting operators, of which there are 12 across the country, doing business online. The remaining balance was bet through the 27,000 outlet-strong network of state monopoly betting kiosks, known as the FDJ – or Française des Jeux.
Of the total share, some €330 million was wagered online, representing one of the biggest ever single online gambling events in French history. The group games attracted €363 million of the action, followed by €310 million through the later rounds. Unsurprisingly, France games attracted the most volume, with their final attracting over €67 million, and their semi-final against Belgium delivering over €35 million.
It was the French team’s performance that landed the bulk of the betting activity, contributing to a quarter of the overall total, solely wagered on France games.
The news comes at a time of big chance for France’s state gambling monopoly, FDJ. FDJ is currently in the process of being privatised, with a number of operators including UK lottery operator Camelot thought to be in the running for the concession.
As part of the process, FDJ has already announced agreements with a number of Ligue 1 clubs, which will see them establish a presence within their stadiums, as well as the rights to use images of a number of their players across their online and offline betting sites.
The World Cup has clearly been good to FDJ, and sports betting operators in France. Some might see it as a reflection of the French team’s performance, and the optimism surround Didier Deschamps squad, which boasted some of the world’s strongest players in their position. From back to front, the French team was solid, and arguably one of the most complete teams in the tournament.
The sheer fact that they went through to the final and won the tournament means they played more games than just about anyone else, and understandably, football fans nationwide reached fever pitch as the semis and final drew closer.
But there is perhaps another underlying story here, which points to the accessibility and convenience of gambling. Even since 2014, it has become much easier for punters to bet on sport, whether that’s online or on mobile. Smartphones in particular mean it’s now easier than ever before to bet from your pocket, and innovations like in-play and cash-out betting are now much more widespread than they might have been at previous tournaments.
This is reflected in the substantial portion of gambling revenues to have come through online channels. With qualifications for the UEFA European Championships just a short time away, French bookies will be hoping the World Cup has inspired a new enthusiasm for betting on the French national team.