French Gaming Operator FDJ in Talks To Buy Online Horserace Betting Site ZETurf

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Posted on: September 21, 2022, 07:17h. 

Last updated on: September 21, 2022, 07:17h.

Gaming operator FDJ has a good grasp of the gaming market in France. However, if its latest plan to purchase online horserace betting platform ZETurf moves ahead, it’s going to control an even larger stake.

Horses come around a bend at Chantilly
Horses come around a bend at Chantilly against the backdrop of Les Grande Ecuries in France. Horseracing continues to be big business in the country, and gaming operator FDJ is hoping to gain a part of the market share. (Image: Racing Post)

The incumbent gambling operator wants to strengthen its position in sports betting via the acquisition of ZEturf. The latter is the second-largest player in online horse racing, following closely behind Paris Mutuel Urbain (PMU).

FDJ has a virtual monopoly on physical sports betting through its state-granted license. On the other hand, PMU controls most of the horserace betting market. FDJ hopes to take over.

ZETurf Gets New Legs

ZEturf controls just 20% of the market share of horse betting in France. With its subsidiary ZEbet, which is beginning to make a name for itself in online sports betting, the group registered €800 million (US$793 million) in bets in 2021 for a turnover of €150 million (US$148.7 million).

That’s way off the revenue of FDJ, which scored more than €10 billion (US$9.91 billion) in bets. Its turnover was €1.21 billion (US$1.24 billion) just from January to June of this year. Part of that goes to the French government, which still owns 20% of the company.

FDJ is looking to grab the reigns of a online horse racing betting market that represented €1.5 billion (US$1.48 billion) in bets in 2020 and gross gaming revenue (GGR) of €354 million (US$350.9 million). That was a year-on-year improvement of 31%, according to the latest report from the National Gaming Authority (ANJ, for its French acronym).

But ZEturf has a considerable advantage as it doesn’t only operate in the French market. It also has a presence in the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain. Online horse betting represents more than 50% of the group’s B2C bets.

The acquisition is now under regulatory review. Should it move forward, FDJ will further entrench its position as a leader in French gambling. As a result, other acquisitions will likely appear on its radar.

Resistance Ahead

On the Paris Stock Exchange, FDJ’s shares rose almost 2% to €31.93 (US$31.64) at the end of the morning yesterday. That coincided with the company’s announcement of the pending purchase.

The improvement also follows the FDJ’s continued growth over the years. That performance led to an IPO in 2019, which opened at €19.90 (US$19.40) for institutional investors.

However, the company is now under investigation over its gaming agreement with France. Just over a year ago, the European Commission (EC) opened an investigation into the amount it paid in exchange for exclusive gaming rights.

In 2020, FDJ paid €380 million (US$376.5 million) to the French government. In return, it received exclusive rights to control the country’s physical and online lottery. It also received a monopoly on retail sports betting for 25 years.

FDJ already had those rights before the agreement, but for an undetermined period. France wanted to change its gambling environment, and the company looked for a way to lock in its presence.

However, the EC began to take a closer look at the deal. Last December, it reported that the amount was “substantially lower than a price that could be considered a market price.” As a result, FDJ may have to pay as much as another €1 billion (US$991 million).

The EC is still reviewing the case and the FDJ is cooperating. It continues to respond to requests for documentation to show that the transaction was legitimate and fair. There’s currently no timeline for the investigation to conclude.



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