Just one week ago, Titan.fr went live in the newly regulated French online gaming market with its ARJEL approved poker site. This morning, The Nation Traffic SAS (Titan.fr operator) reported that the number of visitors to the site thus far has exceeded expectations.
We sat down for an exclusive interview with The Nation Traffic SAS CEO, Benjamin Issembert, and asked him about his thoughts on the French gaming market, the future of Titan.fr and what it means to be a gentleman doing business in what many deem a rogue industry.
Q: What is the history of the French gaming Market?
A: For almost ten years, eGambling Operators conducted business in France illegally. Not illegally, exactly, but in a sort of “Wild West” where there were no clear rules. It was a grey market. Since June 2010, the market has been black or white. As to Titan Gaming’s history with France, we aimed to follow the rules required to participate in the newly regulated market.
Q: And what did or does that mean?
A: On June 11, we shut down operations in the French market in order to apply for a license. At the end of August, we applied for both a poker and a sports betting license under the operator name the Nation Traffic SAS. On November 18, we were granted a poker license.
Q: Five months to get the license. You must have suffered tremendous profit loss during the application process. How did you feel when your competitors received licenses before you?
A: Five months is a long time but we preferred to focus on playing by the rules and the good that would come from that. In terms of getting into the legal market later than competitors, in fact it served us well. We were patient. We didn’t rush. Instead, we researched and investigated the specific needs of French players and the compliance issues involved in obtaining a French gaming license from ARJEL. By arriving a little bit later to the market, we were able to learn from the mistakes of our competitors.
Q: And what were those mistakes?
A: I cannot answer that question as it is phrased because it would require me to speak ill of our competitors, who are also friends.
Q: And you won’t do that?
A: I might think it, but no, I won’t do it.
Q: A gentleman. Who says the gambling industry is lurid? Ok, then, let me rephrase the question: What did you learn?
A: We learned that it will now be much more challenging to make a profit in the French market. We learned that offline campaigns are not that profitable because of taxes and low ROI (Return on Investment). First and foremost, we learned that we must stick to what we know and what we do well – online gaming marketing which includes a lot of “savoir-faire.”
Q: Why the focus on the French market?
A: To speak plainly, it is the most interesting market. The French are not gamblers in the way that most people define gamblers. But they love poker and sports. There is a rich history of betting there that dates back several hundred years. There are more than 90 land-based casinos in France. It is a popular and dignified pastime.
Q: What are ARJEL’s requirements for obtaining a French license?
A: To start, sites must operate as a European or French company. They must be compliant with French law and ensure that players will be protected.
Q: How does Titan ensure that players are protected?
A: There are several ways but the two most relevant involve site transparency and the prevention of gambling addiction. Transparency results from the player’s ability to contact operators directly. To this end, our operations are based in France. To prevent gambling addiction, we’ve incorporated several features on our site. All pages have banners that forward players in need to a single page that instructs them on getting help. We also remind players on every page of each bet placed within the session. We cooperate with French Authorities so that players may forbid themselves from betting, and we require players to set deposit and bet limits, as well as to specify an auto-withdrawal amount.
Q: Despite the ways in which it makes your job harder, do you think the move to licensing and regulation of the online gambling market is a good one?
A: Yes in some ways and no in others. Industry regulation is important whether one is developing safety guidelines for air travel or determining which sparkling wines actually get to call themselves Champagne. Not all regulations save lives, but certainly standards must be set. From another angle, one might say regulation makes doing business very difficult. Taxes for licensed sites are astronomical and it is difficult to make profit. French players have also lost something really important – international liquidity. Following regulation, French players can only play with and against other French players.
Q: What future do you predict for Titan and the French market in general?
A: In terms of the market, the future is bright. I foresee rapid expansion in the coming year. Regarding Titan.fr, we intend to offer the best and most comfortable online poker site and sports book there is. We will continue to listen to our players and to build our product and our website to suit what the players say they want and need. And we will continue to provide French players the best entertainment value and experience.
A: Yes. Returning players will have to re-open their accounts, but we have prepared a very nice surprise for our previous and new players. And it’s big.
Q: A gentleman and a salesman.
A: No. Mannered and market-conscious.
*Interview has been condensed and edited.