Belgium’s minister for justice proposes total ban on gambling advertising

The proposal would ban most gambling advertising this year.
The proposal would ban most gambling advertising this year.

Vincent Van Quickenborn’s proposed royal decree would ban most advertising this year and all sports sponsorship by the end of 2024.

Belgium.- The Belgian Minister for Justice Vincent Van Quickenborn has proposed a total ban on gambling advertising in the country.

He’s pushing for the introduction of a royal decree that would ban most advertising by the end of this year and would give sports teams until the end of 2024 to drop gambling marketing deals.

According to the Belgian newspaper De Tijd, Van Quickenborn’s proposed ban would cover ads for all types of gaming, both online and land-based, with the only exception being the Belgian National Lottery.

The Belgian Association of Gaming Operators (BAGO) has criticised the proposal, saying it would cause players difficulty when it comes to distinguishing legal from illegal operators. It highlighted a survey from UGent showing that one in three gaming operators that advertise on social media in Belgium are unlicensed and operating illegally.

A ban preventing licensed operators from advertising could lead to more players using such operators, BAGO warned, noting that unlicensed operators do not offer the same protection measures as those regulated by the Belgian Gambling Commission.

BAGO also suggested that it was unfair that the ban would not apply to the National Lottery, which is the largest gambling advertiser in Belgium, accounting for approximately 40 per cent of ads.

It said: “Studies show that no game of chance is without risk and that, for example, scratch games carry a risk similar to that of sports betting. One therefore wonders whether the government is really taking a decision in which concern for the consumer is central.”

BAGO also said there was no consultation with the industry before drawing up proposals for a ban, although Van Quickenborn claims the idea was discussed with operators. It proposes that instead of a ban, the government draw up a legal framework for a duty of supervision for the legal market.

It says this could include a requirement to monitor player behaviour, inform players of any changes detected and prompt them to take the opportunity to place limits on spending and self-imposed breaks from gaming. It noted that operators were already advising players regarding Belgian’s self-exclusion list, EPIS.

BAGO president Tom De Clercq said: “More and more legal operators are deploying algorithms and artificial intelligence to quickly identify emerging problematic gambling behaviours and offer solutions to players, including advising them to register on the EPIS list.

“This is the way to go if we want to fight gambling addiction effectively.”

The Belgian Gambling Commission has proposed strict measures on gambling advertising but stopped short of calling for a blanket ban. It wants a limit on gambling ads, a ban on personalised ads targeted at certain groups of players and more power to act quickly when rules are broken. 

The regulator said the government should “determine the volume of permitted advertising” but did not suggest a volume itself. It said that it would like to see general restrictions on who can be targeted by gambling ads, but it particularly wants a ban on targeting personalised ads at young people, excluded players and players who have not gambled for a long time.

Belgium limits newsagent betting hours and advertising

In March, the BGC announced the implementation of a new Royal Decree on gambling, which imposes restrictions on betting stakes, times and advertising at newsagents in the country. The legislation was approved in February following advice from the BGC.

While the original degree brought in regulation allowing newsagents to take retail bets, the new rules place more restrictions on how they can do that, including major restrictions on how much of their income can come from betting.

BAGO criticises gambling account separation

BAGO has also recently criticised government plans to force Belgian players to register for separate online betting and casino accounts. It claims the move could harm safer gambling initiatives.

The Belgian government is considering the requirement to separate betting from online casino in an amendment to a 2019 bill introduced in the Chamber of Representatives. The original 2019 bill established that operators must split gaming and betting across different URLs but would allow players to use a single account across each operator’s different sites. However, the new amendment would prohibit that, forcing players to register separately for each vertical.

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