Gambling made its first steps in Belgium back in 1999 when the government legalized a wide variety of games of chance with the help of the Betting and Gaming Act. It gave the start of a new industry which benefited from the high levels of interest among the nation while giving money back to the country through various taxes applied on the gaming devices operating in gambling venues around the country.
This new legislation made it possible for international companies to make their first steps in the country’s new market and explore the possibilities it offers. The regulations have proven to be positive for the development of the industry and there was an amendment of them which came into effect at the beginning of 2011.
The gambling industry in Belgium is currently experiencing positive rates and there has been a lot of action and improvements being introduced to it in the last several months. Since problem gambling is a topic which is highly discussed in the gambling field, all parties involved in the industry itself are working heavily towards coming up with the most suitable solution to their own business. Earlier this year it was confirmed that the government is working towards the implementing of measures which are going to change the regulation of the industry.
Gambling Advertising During Live Sports Games
As it was reminded by the Belgian Justice Minister, Koen Geens, the gambling field is in need of tighter regulations when it comes to the policy of advertising gaming in the country. The proposed measures were immediately backed by the Belgium Gaming Commission which helped introduce the draft that promoting gambling should be prohibited on television before 8 pm. It pushed the idea that gambling ads should also be banned during live sporting events which are usually followed by millions of viewers, many of them below the legal age of participation in gambling activities.
The measures against the promotion materials even went so far as to dispose of the allowed gambling advertisements if they are considered to promote excessive gambling activity. The exact definition of the term excessive is open to interpretation, but in its essence, it is anything which could very much influence the viewers and especially the easily impressionable children. It is a known fact that during games there are promotional banners running on the screen and some of them are gambling-related. In accordance with the new proposal, they were banned as well as half-time commercials.
Around that time, Marjolein De Paepe, Spokeswoman for the Belgium Gaming Commission, stated that the gaming regulator has the full right to execute its power and improve the state of the gaming industry. The thing is that there should be established clear rules regarding the operation and the framework, which will facilitate the process of work. Another measure which also came into effect is the mandatory implementation of problem gambling warnings placed in marketing materials of gambling operators. They are expected to raise the awareness towards this important issue and those operators who find it easier to disregard the new regulations will receive a hefty fine.
The move was a very logical one and much-anticipated by many since the regulations regarding the promotion of alcohol and tobacco have been tight for quite some time now, but this sort of regulation improvement never reached the gambling field. Gambling is responsible for the problems of many people and gambling addiction is a reality for many players who fail to find the balance between the two extremities.
Raising Minimum Online Gambling Age
The online gambling market in Belgium initially launched six years ago and about a year ago the finance ministry of the country decided to approve a legislation which essentially made the various gambling services taxable under VAT laws. Along with the idea of introducing new laws in relation to the gambling advertising on local television, this summer brought the news that Belgium is going to look for a way to improve the regulation of the minimum online gambling age.
The Christian Democratic and Flemish party has proposed a bill which is going to raise the minimum age for online gambling from 18 to 21. Before the proposed bill online sports betting and the National lottery permitted their customers to participate in the gambling activities if they were age 18 or above. This age was considered too young by the members of the party, which is why they proposed that it is changed to 21 instead. In the case of online casinos, the operators insist that all participants in gambling activities are aged 21 or over.
This proposed measure is aiming to change the way the online industry works and make sure that all participants make decisions in a considerate way and they are not driven by the wrong reasons. Online gambling is an easy gateway to gambling addiction for many young people due to its easy access and the regulations have to be as strict as possible in order to prevent the unwanted proliferation of online gambling among the most vulnerable part of the population.
The Belgian Gaming Commission has also noted that only about 15 percent of all online gambling players tend to pick unregulated websites for their gambling sessions which is a relatively low percentage in the long run. One of the main reasons for the low interest towards them is the fact that such players face a hefty fine if they involve with the said unregulated online gambling operators. There is a reason why the introduction of the minimum gambling age change and it was pointed out by the members of the Christian Democratic and Flemish party.
As it becomes clear, the rates of underage players have surged in the recent years and online gaming and betting services are becoming viral among teenagers. According to researches on the issue, one in every five 17-18-year-olds has experienced the online gambling world and has participated in such activities, as one of the most popular types of gambling is betting on different sports. Due to their interest in the sports industry, it makes sense why teenagers would prefer to demonstrate their knowledge and judgment skills through placing wagers on their favorite team.
Online Advertising Changes in the Country
In more recent news, the government of the country has announced that the next aim in its schedule is going to be to alter the regulation of online advertising and how it is conducted. Online gambling affiliates are going to be directly affected by this decision since the authorities and the Parliamentary Chamber of Representatives (De Kamer) are planning to implement a new ban which will prohibit all types of gambling promotion while there are live sports broadcasts in TV. The proposal for the new standards was given the nod last June by Koen Geens, Christian Democrat CDV MP.
Because of the raising concerns that the young generation in the country is more and more exposed to the influence of the gambling industry, the officials are striving to better the condition of the regulation. The new five-point mandate is going to put a limit on the promotion of betting and gambling activities when there are sports events broadcasted on TV. The new regulation is going to be further backed by the implementation of a watershed which will be set to 8 pm in Belgium. There is, however, a different stand on the question coming from some Belgian MPs.
They are willing to introduce an even stricter stance on digital advertising which will result in restrictions permitting licensed gambling operators to promote their products only through their proprietary websites and with the help of email newsletters to registered clients. The proposal will also include new consumer provisions which will target problem gambling and the promotion of the negative effects of gambling on society, as well as raising the awareness of the first symptoms of addiction. Belgium’s National Lottery is responsible for the draft, as it was stated by Belgian Gaming Attorney Tatiana Klaeser during her presentation on the Excellence in iGaming conference which took place in Berlin last week.
Belgium is working hard in order to better the status quo in the country when it come to the gambling industry, especially following the discovery of striking lowering of the age at which people are introduced to the world of games of chance. In hopes that the new and stricter regulations will give better results for the community, the government is introducing new proposals, but only time can tell whether they are truly effective or not.