France votes to allow new gambling casinos to support ‘horse towns’

France votes to allow new gambling casinos to support ‘horse towns’

The vote will ‘save the region’ and ‘write history’, say supporters

Arnac-Pompadour, in Corrèze, is home to the famous equestrian events ground le Haras national de Pompadour

So-called ‘equestrian towns’ in France will now be able to build casinos and use the money generated to support their horse industry, after the national parliament voted in favour of the idea.

On December 5, the Assemblée nationale voted for a law that will authorise casinos to be built with the sole aim of generating funds for ‘horse towns’.

One such example is Arnac-Pompadour, in Corrèze, which is home to the famous equestrian events ground le Haras national de Pompadour.

The Château de Pompadour, home to the national horse eventing ground (leoks / Shutterstock)

Its mayor Alain Tisseuil has warmly welcomed the news. “It’s huge for a commune of 1,200 residents to have a casino,” Mr Tisseuil told France 3. “This marks [the culmination of] seven years of work. We are writing 50 years of history.”

The mayor added that the casino would also create 30-40 new jobs in the community, and significant indirect income to the town. He estimated that “of 85% of the gross gaming revenue” from the casino, between 10-15% would go straight back into the community.

One local told France 3 in May that such an idea would “be a good thing for everyone, as it would bring in more tourists”, while one local ceramicist shopkeeper said: “I’m not particularly in favour of gambling, but for a village like ours, bringing in potential customers for the shopkeepers could be worthwhile.”

At the time, a Senator for Corrèze, Daniel Chasseing, said: “The financial rewards would enable us to maintain the 160 days a year of national and international equestrian sports at Pompadour, which are so important to the business.”

Mr Tisseuil is now set to hold a council meeting today (Thursday, December 7), to begin the process of calling for tenders for the project, with a view to opening the new casino within the next two years, he said.

‘My region has been saved!’

Frédérique Meunier, MP (Les Républicains, centre-right) for Corrèze was equally happy about what she believes will bring progress and success to the area.

She said: “Thanks to this, the equestrian industry has been saved, my region has been saved. You have to understand, we do not have thermal baths or beaches in the region… if the equestrian industry dies, the region dies.”

Ms Meunier claimed that – despite this vote – the government has “disengaged” from the equestrian industry. This partly explains why the Institut français du Cheval et de l’Équitation (IFCE) – which runs le Haras national de Pompadour – is in severe financial difficulty, she said.

“Local councillors who came up with this action plan…to finance the industry and boost the region,” said Ms Meunier. She added that the “link between gambling and the equestrian industry is [already] significant”, in reference to the long history of betting and horse racing.

‘Detriment to public health’

But at least one MP has criticised the plan. Laurent Alexandre (La France Insoumise, left-wing) said that a drop in funding was not a good enough reason to open a casino, which would be “to the detriment of public health”, and risk people suffering from new gambling addictions.

He said: “If you want additional resources for local authorities…[simply ask to] increase the overall operating grant for local authorities.”

Only one other ‘horse town’

In reality, however, the effect of the new vote is likely to be limited, as just one other place in France meets the criteria to be considered an ‘equestrian town’, giving it authorisation to build a new casino.

This is Saumur (Maine-et-Loire), which is home to – among other horse-related businesses – national riding school the Cadre Noir, as well as the IFCE. Fittingly, a Maine-et-Loire Senator, Catherine Deroche, was among those to first advance the bill in the Senate.

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