SBC News BAGO questions new gambling laws in Belgium

BAGO questions new gambling laws in Belgium

The Belgian Association of Gaming Operators (BAGO) has come out with a statement criticising the recent bill by Green MP Stefaan Van Hecke to introduce a stricter gambling  framework, saying that it will hurt the sector. 

The new law, which recently passed in the Chamber, raises the minimum age for all gambling to 21 years, with an additional restrictive veil lowered on top of bonuses and all types of gambling advertisements.

Belgium first banned gambling marketing on TV, radio, cinema, as well as in magazines, newspapers and public spaces in July last year after sports and betting stakeholders took the decision to a court in Brussels, only to have their appeal dismissed by EU prosecutors. 

It is understood that the new advertising ban will be much wider reaching. 

Tom De Clercq, Chairman of BAGO, commented: “BAGO has repeatedly spoken out in favour of a restriction of advertising, including through the traditional media. But we have also always warned that a total ban on advertising in places where the illegal operators are present en masse, especially online, will have serious side effects. We must once again note that policy makers beat the solutions we provide and go for populist formulas.”

The main argument that BAGO makes against Van Hecke’s bill is that a total ban on gambling adverts will potentially see players driven away from the regulated market only to end up as customers of illegal gambling providers – giving Italy as an example where a similar measure contributed to a significant growth of the grey market. 

Furthermore, the new law would force online gambling providers to offer just one type of gambling, which the Belgian gambling industry body described as a disaster not only for businesses, but also for player protection. 

“One player will have to manage up to three separate player accounts with one and the same operator. This makes it much more difficult for the player to keep an overview,” BAGO commented as reported by Dutch news outlet Casinonieuws

“This is also problematic for the operators, because more and more often they monitor their players on the basis of scientific knowledge, data analysis and artificial intelligence to detect risky behaviour in a timely manner and to act preventively.”

Interestingly, the six members of BAGO – Ardent Group, BetFirst, Golden Palace, Star Casino, Kindred and Napoleon – signed a collective agreement in November 2023 to try and prevent a gambling harm epidemic, with 70% of all Belgian bettors wagering on online platforms. Van Hecke’s new bill however will apparently hamper these efforts. 

Moreover, the bill itself has completely excluded the National Lottery by the Chamber in Belgium, with the minimum age required to play anchored at 18 – a move that BAGO disagrees with for being preferential. 

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