Sport and leisure
Leisure : gambling in France   About sport in France
  • In 2006, the French bet 36,9 bn Euros i.e. 50 bn $ (on horses, in lotteries, in casinos : see figures). French gambling laws are another example of the French specificity with regard to the role of the State. As in most Western countries, gambling is considered dangerous because it can become addictive, and it is tightly regulated. The rule is : it is forbidden unless authorized and controlled by the State. Horse races are regulated by a public body called PMU (Pari Mutuel Urbain), betting games and lotteries are organized by a state-owned company, la Française des Jeux, and casinos are authorized by the Ministry of Interior on a case-by-case basis. Until 2010, on-line bets were forbidden. Therefore, no outsider could enter the market and of course the European authorities, in the name of free competition threatened to take France to the European Court of Justice to force it to open the gambling market to competition and no doubt France would have lost its case. The decision to legalize on-line gambling was largely criticized. However, the position of France is :
    • It is normal that the State regulates and controls an activity which can be socially so dangerous : it is its responsibility and it will do it better than the market
    • the State's share of the bets (around 25%) remains in France and is partly assigned to programs which are globally well-accepted (such as the program on improving horse breeding or the program on subsidizing sports for everybody)
    • It is more "moral" to see all this money go to the French State than to go to a foreign maffia and then to a tax haven
    • The position of the European Commission is far too dogmatic : free competition has nothing to do with gambling.
    • More about the French and the State.

     bn Euros
     Bets (2006)  State's share
     Horse races


     Games and lotteries







  • Regarding the amount of bets on horse races, France ranks fourth after Japan (23,5 bn Euros), U.K. (15,6 bn) and the U.S.A. (14,2 bn)
  • The most popular games are :
    • On horses : "Tiercé" (3 first horses) or "quinté" (5 first horses)
    • Lotteries : "loto" (6 numbers out of 49), "Keno", "Euromillions"
    • Many games in which you scratch a hidden (maybe) winning number or image
    • In casinos : mostly "roulette" (36 numbers) or "boule" (9 numbers)
  • Even when gambling, the French act according to their national values (see more details) : facts are boring but ideas are fun and what is really important is the relation between people rather than the cold analysis of strengths and weaknesses (see a letter about the way the French play poker.
  • The most popular sports are football (what Americans, and only them, call soccer!), rugby, tennis, (and pétanque !) ; a daily newspaper, L'Equipe, is 100% sports and is among the French daily newspapers with the largest circulation.

  • In international competitions, Olympic Games etc... the French are often good at fencing, judo, football, tennis, skiing, rugby

  • The most popular sport events (the streets are empty when they are on TV) are :

    • Rugby " Six-Nations Championship " games (England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Italy and France), especially when it is England vs France (often considered the two best teams) : in February/March
    • Football Final French Championship : in June
    • The Tour de France (bicycle) : in July
    • Tennis : the Roland-Garros tournament (French Open) in May and the Davis Cup (if the French team did well) in Fall
  • Horse races are also very popular all year round : in Paris in Longchamp and Auteuil horse race tracks ; see gambling.

  • (American) football and baseball are totally unknown in France, basket ball is not as popular as it is in the USA.

  • Golf is still a pretty exclusive game in France. See about golfing near Paris.

  • More to come.

You want to watch a base-ball game in Paris ? Read about sport-cafes in Paris.

DID YOU KNOW THAT....? The French have a special relation to the Olympic Games. Why? Because the Games where re-established (after 16 centuries of interruption !) by Pierre de Coubertin (1863-1937), a French aristocrat who admired the role of sport in British schools and wanted to popularize sports among the young. Coubertin founded the International Olympic Committee and chaired it from 1896 to 1925. The first (new) games were held in Athens in 1896. According the the Olympic Charter, French is the first olympic official language and must be the first used in official announcements. There were Games in Paris in 1900 and 1924 and the next will be held in Paris in 2024.

The next Paris Olympic Games in 2024 (this section, under construction, will record the most important facts concerning the project between 2017 and 2024)

  • Sept.13, 2017 : the CIO votes in favour of Paris to organize the 2024 O.G. (Los Angeles is designated for 2028)
  • After March 2020 : the giant confinement caused by the virus pandemic creates worries about the already tight delays to build the major infrastructure equipements planned for the O.G.
  • Aug.9, 2121 : at the end of the Tokyo games, the olympic flag is officially transmitted to the Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo
  • More to come...
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Harriet Welty Rochefort writes articles and books about France and the French. Order her books :

  • "Joie de Vivre", Secrets of Wining, Dining and Romancing like the French, St.Martin's Press, New York, 2012
  • "French Toast, An American in Paris Celebrates The Maddening Mysteries of the French", St.Martin's Press, New York, 1999
  • "French Fried, The Culinary Capers of An American in Paris", St.Martin's Press, New York, 2001
  • "French Toast - Heureuse comme une Américaine en France", Ramsay, Paris 2005

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Together or separately, Harriet and Philippe Rochefort speak about Intercultural Differences : click here for information.