Ladbrokes and PMU deal criticised by Belgian competition watchdog

Belgium to apply toughest gambling protections from 1 September

Kansspelcommissie, the Gambling Authority of Belgium, has confirmed that it will apply new gambling protection measures from 1 September 2024, raising the minimum age for gambling to 21 years. 

The decision follows January’s approval of new player protection amendments to be added to the Belgian Gambling Act of 1999. 

The mandate was approved by the Chamber of Representatives, which endorsed a decree by Green Party Minister Stefaan Van Hecke to overhaul the Gambling Act’s consumer protections by adopting tougher compliance measures. 

As such, Belgium joins Greece in becoming the second EU member state to apply a minimum 21-year age requirement on all forms of gambling (online and land-based). 

Prior to the decree, Belgium had applied a 21-year age restriction on access to land-based casinos and arcades. New rules will no longer allow bars, clubs, and recreational centres to operate slot machines. 

The decree has further tightened Belgium’s blanket ban on gambling advertising, which came into force on 1 July 2023. From September, Belgium-licensed operators will no longer be allowed to offer free bets, bonuses, or gifts as incentives to entice customers. 

Furthermore, licensed operators will no longer be allowed to promote ‘games of chance’ on their websites to customers. The framework applies a compliance command on operators who must separate customer access to games of chance from other wagering verticals (sportsbook, bingo, poker). 

As stands, gambling advertising will only be permissible at football stadiums until 1 January 2025, due to a legal intervention by Belgian Pro League football clubs who secured a grace period to conclude advertising contracts.

The Green Party cited it had won a four-year battle against the gambling lobby to implement comprehensive protections for Belgian consumers. 

Trade body, BAGO, the Belgium Association of Gaming Operators, expressed opposition to a total gambling advertising ban, stating that it could result in consumers finding it difficult to distinguish between legal and illegal operators. 

Tom De Clercq, Chair of BAGO, noted: “BAGO has repeatedly spoken out in favour of limiting advertising, including through traditional media. But we have also always warned that a total ban on advertising in places where illegal operators are massively present, especially online, will have serious side effects. 

“We must once again conclude that policymakers ignore the solutions we have proposed and opt for populist formulas.”


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