eSports set for legalization in France

eSports FranceIn many countries, eSports have struggled for the recognition their physical counterparts enjoy. In many cases, this is largely related to the newness of eSports, and their more sedentary nature compared to traditional physical sports. However, in France, there has been a unique problem: laws intended to regulate online gambling have prohibited both the creation of leagues and the size and type of prizes paid out. Rulings in the early days of French eSports ignored the talent and skill involved in most virtual games, and instead declared such gaming to be a form of “lottery,” subjecting it to France’s extensive gambling regulations. This means that not only do French eSports athletes have to treat their winnings as highly-taxed gambling winnings, they are denied access to the extensive network of benefits and services provided to most French athletes.

However, a massive set of digital reforms known as the “La République numérique en actes” (the “Digital Republic Act”) seeks to change this. The act was written by industry lawyers, legal scholars and a large number of digital volunteers, resulting in a very democratic and wide-reaching piece of legislation. In addition to a large number of common-sense reforms, the act seeks to ensure that eSports athletes are treated equally to their traditional cousins, and that eSports are regulated like sports, not lotteries.

This comes at a time when France’s eSports industry is exploding with growth. In 2015, over 850,000 French citizens participated in eSports events, with over four million French citizens viewing these competitions in person or online. With a population of only sixty-six million in total, this means that a large percentage of French nationals (most notably the younger generation) watch or actively participate in eSports. Most industry analysts agree that these new regulations will serve to increase France’s participation in eSports, as well as remove the negative stigma of gambling currently associated with them.

The new regulations will not only enable eSports athletes to obtain the same benefits and tax exemptions as their traditional counterparts, but it will open eSports to children. Under the current regulations, only adults may participate in eSports, but the act seeks to open eSports to persons of all ages, with provisions for parental consent and limitations on winnings. It will also create a new eSports anti-doping league, which will ensure that athletes do not injure their health by attempting to cheat with various forms of doping.