Covid-19 hits French sports betting in second quarter

France’s online gambling market reported a 5.6% year-on-year decline in revenue for the second quarter after the sports betting vertical saw stakes and revenue plummet as a result of novel coronavirus (Covid-19).
However, growth in the first quarter of 2020, coupled with a resilient performance from betting on racing and stellar quarter for poker in Q2, meant that first half revenue grew 8.3% in the first half.
For the three months to 30 June, revenue declined to €323m (£289m/$387m). French gambling regulator L’Autorité nationale des jeux (ANJ) blamed this on Covid-19, which caused mass cancellations of sporting events, including an early end to the French football season in April.
This resulted in amounts wagered on sports dropping 57.2% to €513m, of which €445m was wagered on football, with a further €36m staked on baseball and €18m on basketball.
The regulator attempted to mitigate the loss of the major sports by approving betting on a number of additional competitions, including Australian rules football and association football; Hungary’s domestic football cup, as well as South Korea and Chinese leagues. Betting on Korean baseball and Belarusian hockey was also approved.
While sports betting struggled in the second quarter, horse racing betting proved more resilient despite French racing being halted from 17 March to 11 May. Amounts wagered rose 34.6% to €362m, with revenue up 33.3% to €88m. ANJ noted that the market had not recorded such growth rates since the regulated French market opened for business in 2010, setting new records for both revenue and handle.
Poker was the standout performer in Q2, with revenue more than doubling year-over-year to €142m – the highest contribution of all products – as players switched to the vertical under lockdown. This broke down to €39m in cash game revenue – up 81.4% – with cash game revenue soaring 148.2% to €103m, and followed a strong first quarter showing.
The number of active player accounts for poker climbed 67.8% to 1.01m, with average spend per active account increasing 35.4% to €134 in the second quarter.
This meant that online revenue for the first half of the year, to 30 June, was up 8.3% to €758m, with sports betting’s struggles offset by growth in poker and horse racing.
Amounts wagered on sports over the six month period was down 30.0% to €1.73bn, with revenue falling 18.3% to €356m, at a time when all major sports were suspended.
Under lockdown, which began on 16 March in Q1 and stretched into Q2, to 10 May, amounts wagered were down 84.7% at €121m, with operators’ revenue for this period plummeting 86.8% to €20m, compared to 18 March to 12 May 2019.
Horse racing, on the other hand, saw stakes rise 22.1% to €662m, and revenue grow 21.8% to €162m, in the first half. ANJ said the vertical benefitted from sports bettors shifting to betting on racing, as well as increased coverage of foreign events offsetting the loss of French races.
This meant that during the lockdown period, while the average number of active player accounts per week declined to 119,000, handle was up 16.4% to €192m, with revenue growing 20.0% to €48m. As soon as French racing resumed, ANJ added, player numbers increased rapidly and accelerated growth in stakes.
Poker’s first half performance, meanwhile, was driven by its second quarter showing, with revenue up 82.4% to €239m. Of this total, €110m was generated under lockdown; between 16 March and 10 May, the average number of active accounts per week jumped 89.0% to 499,000, with the revenue of €110m a 175.0% improvement on the €40m generated between 18 March and 12 May 2019.
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