Ladbrokes and PMU deal criticised by Belgian competition watchdog

Belgium Gambling Commission President rallies against ad ban

Agali Clavie, President of the Belgium Gambling Commission (BGC), has made comments critical of political attempts to curb gambling marketing in the country. 

Appearing on the Bel RTL morning programme, Clavie outlined her worry – one shared with some stakeholders in Britain ahead of its own regulatory changes – that an advertising clampdown could benefit black market firms.

Expressing a similar sentiment to her cross-border counterpart in the Netherlands, the BGC President noted that gambling advertising serves to promote legal, licenced operators, which are subject to regulatory requirements.

“We want the player to remain in the legal gaming circuit,” she said. “And if this circuit can no longer advertise, there is a risk that the player will turn to the illegal circuit and there, we cannot carry out real checks and unfortunately, these illegal operators are becoming more and more important on the internet.”

Belgium is currently set to enforce strict restrictions against advertising, with the most prominent supporters of reform being Justice Minister Vincent van Quckenborne and Finance Minister Vincent Van Peteghem.

Last year, Van Quickenborne proposed a Royal Decree which would ban most forms of betting and gaming advertising by the end of 2023, with marketing in sports such as sponsorships set to end by 2024.

The first phase would see an end to print, TV, radio and online media/social media advertising, as well as banning of posters in public places and personalised digital or post advertising.

Van Quickenborne has asserted that his proposals have broad political support from all seven parties in the current Belgian coalition government.

Other stakeholders have voiced their concerns about the reforms, however, including Reformist Movement (MR) leader Senator Georges-Louis Bouchez, Kindred Belgium General lManager Dennis Mariën and Pro League CEO Lorin Parys, and now Clavie.

Despite criticising the totality of the Minister’s plans, Clavie did acknowledge that ‘in itself, restricting advertising is a good thing’ because gambling ‘is ‘not a hobby like any other’, due to its potential to become pragmatic or pathological.

She did, however, point to a ‘double standard’ present in the legislation, she argued that the National Lottery should also be considered – a point previously raised by the aforementioned Bouchez of the MR party.

As the Lottery is still a form of gambling, critics of the Bill argue that it too should be held to the same advertising standards as sports betting, casinos and online gaming, which Van Quickenborne has likened to ‘the new smoking’.

“We cannot say: if it is the State which organises the game, it is not pathological,” Clavie commented on the Lottery.

“The question is not who organises the game but what the game is. It is understandable that some games are less dangerous than others, but this is not necessarily the case with all National Lottery products.”

Clavie’s comments may be shared to some extent by Van Peteghem, however, who decreed prior to the World Cup that the Lottery should not advertise any sports betting products via television, radio or in written articles during the tournament.

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