Green light for Belgium 1 July ad ban after legal challenges dismissed

Green light for Belgium 1 July ad ban after legal challenges dismissed

A Belgium court has ruled against a range of sports and betting stakeholders regarding the upcoming ban on gambling advertising, according to local media.

Het Nieuwsblad has outlined that the Brussels court has rejected appeals against the ban from both the sports and betting sectors, which had been brought between eleven different national courts. 

This effectively removes the final barrier faced by the Royal Decree, backed by Minister of Justice, , to ban all forms of betting and gaming advertising from 1 July. The ban will cover marketing on TV, radio, cinema, magazines, newspapers and in public spaces.

Commenting on the Brussels court’s decision, Van Quickenborne remarked: “Hopefully this will put an end to all attempts at lobbying and legal sabotage from the gambling sector and sectors that are addicted to gambling money.”

Another appeal against the ban is still possible, but due to the timeframe would have to occur after it comes into force. In its assessment, the court stated prohibition of betting advertising was a ‘legitimate public interest objective’ with ‘proportionate and effective’ measures.

As with other countries – including the neighbouring Netherlands, which is also due to introduce a slightly more limited ban on advertising on 1 July – is to protect vulnerable people and curtail gambling addiction.

The ban has been in political development for some time, having first been touted by Van Quickenborne in 2022. The Justice Minister went on to propose the Royal Decree in May 2022, likening gambling to ‘the new smoking’.

There was some backlash from the sporting sector at the time, however, with Pro League CEO Lorin Parys sharing concerns that sponsorship revenue could fall 12% and entering into consultations with the federal government as a result.

As in countries such as the UK, betting sponsorships are commonplace in Belgian football. For example, in the 2022/23 season, 16 out of the 18 Pro League clubs had a betting partner, and so many sporting stakeholders were unsurprisingly concerned about the financial impact of an advertising ban.

Despite criticism of the ban from both sporting and betting stakeholders, Van Quickenborne has been adamant in implementing the legislation, stating that ‘normalisation and banalisation of gambling must finally stop’.

As stated above, restrictions will also come into force in the Netherlands on 1 July, under legislative changes promoted by Minister for Legal Protection, Franc Weerwind, who answered questions from the House of Representatives on the ban this week.

However, the imminent ban has not stopped sports clubs from continuing to partner with betting firms. Earlier this month, Pro League club RSC Anderlecht signed a deal with Napoleon Sports covering the next four seasons.

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