Racing hits the streets as sports betting pilot is suspended
The French government has reversed its approval for a controversial plan to allow the national lottery operator, FDJ, to pilot a scheme in more than 100 bars and cafes that would facilitate in-play betting on four sports.
The climbdown came just hours before protesters from across the racing, trotting and breeding industries marched through the streets of Paris on Wednesday.
The crowd was estimated by organisers at between 5-6,000 and featured a number of leading figures: the training ranks included Nicolas Clement, Mikel Delzangles and Henri-Francois Devin; current and former riding stars Jacques Ricou and Dominique Boeuf; a large number of bloodstock figures included agent Nicolas de Watrigant and Patrick Joubert, the breeder of Silviniaco Conti; and administrators including France Galop president Edouard de Rothschild and his immediate predecessor, Bertrand Belinguier.
Sports betting has been almost completely confined to online firms since its legalisation in 2010 and the JPFC committee (young horse industry professionals) have led a campaign to force a rethink.
'We're a little surprised'
"Even we're a little surprised, but very satisfied, at the numbers, and the size of this show of unity will give us strength when it comes to the negotiations ahead," said JPFC spokesman Thibault Lamare.
"We're not there yet, but the suspension of the scheme tells me the government is attentive to our cause, which is to retain the balance between the receipts of the lottery and of betting on racing."
A joint communique on behalf of finance minister Michel Sapin and secretary of state for the budget, Christian Eckert, announced the suspension of the pilot scheme "owing to concerns raised over its impact for betting on racing".