Unibet France Live, but Spain Left Behind
Internet gaming giant Unibet is taking another run at the French gaming market with its acquisition of the Solfive group brands. Unibet bought the company, whose properties include EuroSportBet and EuroSportPoker, for €5.625 million ($7.53 million US) up front and agreed to pay off the company’s outstanding debts totaling around €2.375million ($3.18 million US). The combined operations will work under the Unibet.fr brand name.
Unibet’s return to the French market comes on the heels of their abrupt pullout from the Spanish gaming market. Gaming industry watchers can’t seem to decide whether the move was triggered by Spain’s exorbitant gaming taxes and complex gaming laws; or by a desire to apply for a new Spanish gaming license, which requires companies to remove themselves from the market during the application process.
In case you missed the full story on Unibet entering France, read about the purchase of the Solfive Group.
In the absence of clear information from the company itself, making a case for either argument is not hard to do. Though it does seem odd, Spanish gaming laws do require companies to remove themselves from the market while their license application is under review. But it wouldn’t be too surprising if Unibet pulled out because high Spanish taxes and over-regulation. The company was one of the first to receive a French gaming license, but exited the market, citing heavy tax burdens as their reason. (Company officials are still not happy about the tax situation in France, but it’s apparently more palatable than operating in Spain.)
Piece of the Paella
Spanish gaming is a potentially lucrative market that’s been tough for online gaming companies to crack. Spaniards have embraced online poker in the past few years and poker based television shows are very popular there, but that hasn’t made things any easier for iGaming companies.
Though many forms of Internet gambling are legal in Spain, the regulatory environment is complicated at best. Spanish officials have gone out of their way to protect the interests of their national lottery and, as a result, any game that could compete with the lottery, like Bingo, is not permitted.
That said, there is a provision in Spanish gaming law that allows companies to house their servers in other countries if they have some sort of representation in the country. It’s very possible that Unibet is setting itself up run operations serving Spain from servers based in France.
It appears as though this story is far from its conclusion and we’ll continue to watch it and report back developments as they occur.
For more information on the Spanish gaming market, take a look at our special report, Online Gambling in Spain: Everything You Need to Know.