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French Connection: Pari-Mutuel figures reflect major rise in betting turnover.

Byline: Desmond Stoneham

The most successful sector in the sluggish French economy appears to be racing, judging by the spectacular figures being achieved by the

Pari-Mutuel-Urbain.

In 2003, betting turnover rose by an impressive 9.5 per cent, and figures are even more positive for the first three months of this

season.

By the end of March, betting in France improved by 11.3 per cent compared to the previous year. This is further good news for the sport, which employs 58,000 people.

Last year's growth was the PMU's best figure for 20 years, and wagering in France rose above the

E7 billion mark for the first time last year.

Everybody has a share of this enormous cake, most notably the impoverished Government.

Racing receives around 6.4 per cent of total wagering, which gave it an income of about E450m for 2003. Trotting receives about half of this and the rest goes to Flat and jumping.

One of the reasons for this positive trend is that since last July all France's 8,000 betting outlets have had the option of staying open all day.

The experiment to let the public in free to Auteuil and Longchamp during April and May has so far been a great success. There is now a real buzz at the tracks and the loss of entrance money

is partly offset by an increase in course

betting.

In general, a green light is showing for virtually all sectors of racing, although an amber signal is still in place when it comes to sponsors. However, this could also change in the near future.

There is frustration, however, when famous alcohol brands are allowed to add their names to top events on the other side of the Channel.

In France, the Evin law bans races being sponsored by alcohol in all its forms, although there may be a reform in the pipeline to exclude wines. Hopefully, this will lead to the

Chateau Petrus Prix du Jockey-Club.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Apr 23, 2004
Words:330
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