Place your bets

Monday, 14 June 2010

From today it is now legal to bet on cycling races in France. Until now, it was banned but of course many would simply use the internet to place a bet with an overseas operator. But France has now partially liberalised this law, ending the state monopoly ending what was increasingly becoming a farce, a law that was impossible to enforce.


Road legal

But the liberalisation is not total. According to cyclismag.com, only the following road events will be allowed for gaming: Tour, Giro, Vuelta, Milan-San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Tour de Lombardy, Olympics, Worlds and the National Championships and even here only the first placed rider counts. It’s a far cry from being able to visit a non-French site and to bet on who might be in the top-10 or picking the Lanterne Rouge for the Tour.

Sponsorship
I expect some companies from the sector to back teams. We saw Swedish company Unibet back a cycling team a few years ago, it bought a ProTour licence and was hoping to ride the Tour de France. But if gambling was illegal in France, so was advertising it… only it took several million Euros spent building a team for the Swedish company to grasp this. The team couldn’t ride and soon imploded.

Note that under the monopoly system in France, there were only two licenced operators: PMU and Française des Jeux, both of whom sponsor the sport. The first backs the Green jersey in the Tour and the second has its own ProTour team. So any new entrants will only bring additional sponsorship if the PMU and FDJ survive and maintain their investment in pro cycling.

The Odds
Cycling is a tough sport to bet on. Rather than the binary outcome of some sports contests, there can be over 200 potential winners on the start line of a race. So the odds are long and possibly tempting but a quick look behind the scenes reveals some decent margins for the bookmakers operating in this corner of the sector.

I won’t lecture on the dangers of punting but note this is an area of sports gaming where the payouts (the % of money returned to those placing bets) appear to be stingy. That said, perhaps the legalisation here will introduce a bit more competition and transparency. But until then remember you’re far more likely to enrich the bookmaker than pick the winner.

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