As part of a sweeping set of digital reforms under consideration, the French government has taken steps to simultaneously embrace and regulate the esports industry.
The esports rules are part of a larger package of proposals known as the “projet de loi pour une République numérique” (“Digital Law”). Large portions of the proposals were written and re-written via a crowdsourcing campaign last year.
The French Parliament is currently considering the new digital reforms. In a press release today, France’s digital minister, Axelle Lemaire, said the Senate had adopted several measures that would officially legalize the esports industry in France.
In fact, as they have in many other countries, esports have become a big business in France. Lemaire’s office said there are an estimated 850,000 professional and amateur players in France and more than 4 million viewers. And the government is eager to see those numbers grow even faster.
However, until now, esports have technically been considered “lottery schemes” and thus restricted and in some cases prohibited, depending on the structure. The new rules create an official recognition of esports as a distinct entity, with its own set of rules and regulations.
Those new rules include a requirement that minors receive parental consent to participate and also restricts their winnings.
At the same time, professional players will have an official “social status.” That will give them official recognition within France’s byzantine tax and social benefits systems so they can be eligible for things like national health insurance, unemployment, and retirement. The hope is that this will make it easier for people to create more professional teams in France, as well as drawing talent from outside the country.
Just last week, Lemaire met with the country’s esports and gaming industry leaders, who announced the creation of an esport association. While the industry group is independent, the French government pushed for the alliance to allow better coordination and representation among industry players in order to develop more events and clearer standards.
— Axelle Lemaire (@axellelemaire) April 27, 2016
The digital law still faces several weeks of review in Parliament, and likely some revisions, before a final vote this summer.