While the port city in southern France prepares to open a public tender to develop Marseille’s first ever casino, the country’s largest casino group, Partouche, has begun work on an open air casino not far from Marseille, in the historic shipbuilding city of La Ciotat.

Plans have been approved to relocate to a new hotel closer to Marseille from its existing license at Casino Flots Bleus, and work has begun at an estimated cost of €10m for the Partouche Group (PARP:FP). Several tables and slot machines will be housed at the building designed by the architectural firm Marc Fercy to look like an overturned boat hull with a terrace of 1.300 m2. Players will be shielded from rain or provided shade by huge canvas umbrellas that will be installed. Glass walls lined with prickly plant hedges will provide security, and players can enjoy the views and more importantly, smoke while playing.

While there are some conflicting revenue numbers regarding overall performance of casinos in France in 2015, from various usually reliable sources, according to G3Newswire, gross gambling revenue (GGR) has declined at French casinos and Partouche owned casinos since the smoking was banned in 2008. Partouche’s French casinos which generated €514.5m last year also witnessed a decline of 2.1 percent, along with the French casino sector, which as a whole saw a decline of 2.6 percent.

According to Fabrice Paire, President of Partouche’s Corporate Executive Board, the open air concept will have a casino inside and outside, with so many machines outdoors making a La Ciotat a world first. Paire went on to say that Partouche recorded a 25 percent decline in attendance from the end of 2007, which was partly due to the smoking ban, but has experienced a recovery in recent months. He said that casinos that only offer indoor games have been significantly outperformed by those few casinos abroad offering a small portion outdoors. It is the hope of Partouche that 20 percent more GGR will be generated by the new site over that of the existing site in Flots Bleus. The new casino is slated for a spring 2016 opening.

Large casino groups are looking to get into the casino action in Marseille, and while Mayor of Marseilles, Jean-Claude Gaudin admitted to never having “played in a casino,” he said he now understands the draw; an about face possibly inspired by studies which show as many as 500 jobs could be generated by a new casino and as much as €10m in tax revenues annually to the city’s public finances.

Paris being the last bastion, authorities in France are evaluating the possibility of reforming its gambling legislation, which currently bans “gambling games within 100 kilometers of Paris.” That law, which dates back to 1907, was amended 20 years later, when the Barriére Group received permission to operate a casino in Enghien-les-Bains, located within 11 kilometers North of Paris.

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