Friday, 29 January 2010

France and Germany

A couple of interesting takes from European monopolists reached my ears this evening from the International symposium on the future of European racing taking place in Dublin.

The delegate from the PMU apparently told the audience that the French government happened to decide to open its market slightly, and approached the European Commission to ask their advice on how to do it. The PMU also take the view that the Commission recognises that monopoly pari-mutuel is the best way to fund racing, and that all private operators are money launderers. Indeed, his view was that the Santa Casa judgment "proved" that private operators launder money. Crikey. I guess it's not the first time we've heard that accusation.

A German presenter followed. He told those present that all private operators in Germany have 'decided to move offshore'. He spoke for 20 minutes, and made no mention at all of the German State Treaty.

What was the title of the conference again?


  1. Hi Mark,

    Setting aside our shared self interest and consideration for the French punter's right to a fair deal, do you not think that the French are (more or less) playing their hand beautifully?

  2. It's hard to argue, if you accept that their stated objective and their actual objective are completely different.

    Assuming that their actual objective is to get the European Commission off their backs by looking as if they are opening the market while actually doing nothing of the sort, then yes, they are indeed playing a blinder. Equally, all credit to them for the political game they have played with great expertise, making sure that the existing interests of players in the country are those that are best served. It is hard to argue with that.

    It is also hard to argue that in their position, politically-speaking, they could have been expected to do anything else: on the one hand, you have a series of private operators (all fairly new to the party, and mainly foreign) who are pointing out that a particular path will lead to disaster some time in the medium term; and on the other you have a group of established families close to the political system (all French, all long in the tooth) who are arguing that the path suggested by the first lot will lead to disaster in the immediate future. Who would you choose to listen to in those circumstances? Even if your head told you that the new, modern, foreign operators were right, politically you know you will be well out of office before their dire predictions come to pass, and someone else will be left to clean up the mess. No-one will even remember who created it, and if you're lucky, people will point the finger at the foreigners anyway. In contrast, if you go against your home-grown powerful families and get it wrong, the chickens come home to roost while you're still in office, and you get asked why you didn't listen to advice from people who were close to you.

    In that context, it isn't surprising that the people with logic on their side are having a difficult time being heard.

    Unfortunately, the people who will pay for that, ultimately, are the consumers; and the next generation. But if politics were about the next generation, then a whole host of policies in a large variety of areas would be different.

    Luckily, the world is probably moving more quickly than it was, and the medium-term time horizon is going to come on more quickly than expected. I think that falling tax take, and a rapid wave of consumers leaving the country (in a virtual sense), will impact the French law far more rapidly than they think it will, and changes will come fairly quickly.

    But the short answer to your question, Alexander, is yes, I do - assuming that their objective is, as many suspect, a perfect example of what Sartre called mauvaise foi, and is the opposite of what they claim it to be.