The French government-owned lottery and online gambling operator Française des Jeux has partnered with Webedia to organize esports tournaments.
Details are available on a new website FDJ eSport. Three tournament series are on offer to start the ball rolling:
The Masters League will run twice a year. Thirty-two professional esports players will compete for a €20,000 prize pool. The details of the games that will be played will be available soon.
The Open Series will consist of over 40 tournaments primarily available online, but including some live events. The series is open to professionals and amateurs. It will consist of events that include games like Clash Royale.
Both the Masters League and the Open Series will air on JVTV or Millenium TV.
The Gaming Tour targets amateurs and will bring 24 events to different locations throughout France. All events will be take place live.
FDJ is investing €200 million over five years as part of its 2020 Transformation Project. The project aims to add a million new customers, gain a 10 percent market share of “break-even” games and 20 percent of digital sales.
Stéphane Pallez, president and CEO of FDJ said:
“The ambition of the FDJ 2020 project is to create an offer with more entertainment, more interactions between players and addressing young adults. This is why FDJ wishes to invest in the development of eSports in France. This market in process of democratization covers a wide spectrum of games of expertise.”
Notably, FDJ is regulated by ARJEL to offer online gaming. But there is no regulatory basis for it to offer betting on esports.
FDJ’s move suggests that it will be lobbying the regulator to allow it to introduce esports betting at the earliest opportunity.
ARJEL will probably be open to the suggestion. It has recently introduced regulations to cover daily fantasy sports, with online poker market leader Winamax the first to launch a DFS product.
The French government already noticed the growing popularity of esports.
In April last year, Secretary of State Axelle Lemaire announced the formation of the government sponsored “France eSports” federation to advise the government on regulating eSports.
At the time Secretary Lemaire said:
“The association ‘France eSports’ is to represent the common interests of economic agents, professional or amateur, of the electronic sports sector, and to develop, promote, supervise the practice of e-sports in a spirit of fairness and human development, as part of the values and fundamental principles of Olympism.”
Given the way the French government interacts with its state-owned companies, the FDJ venture into esports likely has support at the highest levels.
Winamax is the market leader in the French online poker market. It is the only company to have a larger market share than PokerStars in a segregated regulated market.
For several years, Winamax has sponsored esports events and players. It has stepped short of the level of involvement that FDJ has just announced.
Winamax Business Development Manager Jimmy Le Tissier is also their head of esport partnerships:
“Gamers have already realized that Winamax Poker is actively involved in sports, sponsoring such prestigious communities as Millenium and Team aAa.”
Winamax’ competitor PokerStars has also developed the first signs of an esports interest in France.
Before he achieved fame as a poker player, he was a professional StarCraft: Brood War and Warcraft III eSports player. He now competes for Team Liquid in Hearthstone competitions.
The company is focused on “building a global network of unique media brands and services within the entertainment and recreation industries: Movies, Gaming and eSports, Food, Glam, Travel….”
In October 2016, Webedia partnered with top French soccer club, Paris Saint-Germain. Webedia director Rémy Chanson acts as the secretary-general for the France eSports Federation.
Véronique Morali, CEO of Webedia, commented on the FDJ deal:
“Webedia Group is proud to support the deployment of FDJ in eSports. All our teams and expertise dedicated to the organization of competition, talent management, and production of events are invested in this project which aims to permanently install a new major player in the sector.”
While the big tournament organizers such as ESL play a major role in the global esports world, Webedia is now making its mark in France.
And in France, as Winamax has shown, there are different market dynamics that can produce national champions capable of out competing global leaders, at least locally.