Gambling in France: is it a problem?

Alison Eastaway, 05/0812 In Australia, it seems that opportunities to gamble are everywhere. In France, by contrast, gambling is largely limited to casinos and betting shops (Pari Mutuel Urbain). But does this mean France is free from problem gambling?

Sydney and Melbourne each boast famous casinos, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. Walk into any pub, sports club, hotel or RSL (Returned and Services League) Club in Australia and chances are, you’ll find poker machines, KENO (a mix of bingo and lottery games) and even a mini TAB (the Australian equivalent of the French PMU).

Alison Eastaway, 05/08/12

In France, however, one must explicitly venture into a casino, the PMU or go to the racetrack itself in order to gamble. On top of this, up until 2010 online gambling was illegal.1

Gambling is restricted to dedicated establishments in France, and as such, is less integrated in everyday social life.

Problem gambling in France

In 2010, 1.3% of the French population were identified as having a gambling problem, whilst Australia reported a figure of 2.1% in 2007.

Around 45% of French people gamble,compared with 82% of Australians.Of this 82%, more than 40% prefer poker machines as their weapon of choice.4

Alison Eastaway, 05/08/12

Perhaps more alarming still is the suggestion that 4% of all Australians gamble on the ‘pokies’ at least once a week.5

French people, on the other hand, much prefer to bet on sports matches, scratch-games and the lotto, rather than gamble on high-spend casino games. This preference of gambling results in a per capita spend far lower than that of Australia, at an average of 570 euros per person per year, against the Australians staggering 1640 euros.6

French betting preferences reduce impact

So whilst the statistics indicate that both countries have a similar prevalence of problem gambling, the betting preferences of the French mean that the overall monetary impact is less devastating than it is in Australia.

It makes me wonder if there isn’t a lesson we can learn from the French on this topic.

Consider this – gambling, as a whole may not be the real problem. Perhaps it is the omnipresence of poker machines in Australia that is really to blame.

What do you think?

1. Wikipedia: Gambling in France
2. Pathological gambling in adolescence via NCBI 11 Jan 2012
3. What is Problem Gambling? via BetSafe 1 May 2007
4. Australian Pokies statistics by Felix 19 May 2010 via
5. Australia wrestles gambling addiction via tenbreakfast 22 March 2012
6. The Past, Present and Future of ARJEL and French Online Gambling by Amanda Carter 17 June 2012

Image Credits:
1. endora57 on Flickr. 

2. missmoun on Flickr. 
3. Subliminati on Flickr. 

About the Contributor

Alison Eastaway

“I am Australian-born but Parisienne at heart. I've spent 8 years in Paris, and can usually be found sipping coffee on café terraces or snuggling up with my cat and a book. Follow me on Twitter, or find me on LinkedIn."

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!


  1. Celine Mangiardi Aug 23, 2012 at 12:37 PM - Reply

    I am quite amazed by the number of people gambling in Melbourne and it was the same when I was living in London. Temptation is everywhere for people.
    From my point of view, people who are gambling in France (the Loto for instance) are kind of desperate. They need money and it’s the only to earn some.
    Is it the same in Australia or do they just enjoy gambling?

  2. Alison Eastaway Aug 23, 2012 at 1:30 PM - Reply

    Thanks for your comment Celine! I’d say in Australia it is very much about recreation, and can often be a social activity. Many workplaces have syndicates where they buy weekly lotto tickets, and children are often given scratch-tickets in birthday cards. I know quite a few friends who will go to the local RSL for lunch with their family and very casually spend $10 on the poker machines. Interesting that it is a similar case in London.

Leave A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.