Belgian sports betting legality under fire as Gaming Commission seeks royal change

Posted: Dec 8, 2021, 9:19 a.m.

Last update on: December 8, 2021, 11:33 a.m.

Some sports betting in Belgium could either be forced to close their doors or be forced to pay a lot of money to keep operating. The Belgian Gaming Commission (BGC) wants a clearer definition of what constitutes legal sports betting. Depending on the outcome, this could impact a number of stores already preparing to include sports betting options.

Magali Clavie
Magali Clavie, President of the Belgian Commission for Games of Chance. The organization has asked for a new royal decree to better define certain aspects of sports betting. (Image: Belgian Gaming Commission)

Belgium is, like many European countries, in the process of updating its laws on gambling. He was somewhat relaxed in his approach to sports betting, and a new language on legal sports betting caught the attention of the BGC.

In the country, newspaper shops are allowed to take bets. However, this created a sort of legal vacuum.

According to the BGC, sports betting is popping up under the pretext of being a newspaper store. The commission says that these stores focus most of their efforts on sports betting and almost none on disseminating or selling information.

Royal decree required

As a result, the BGC wants the government to issue a royal decree that would better explain who can offer sports betting activities. If demand is met, stores that advertise themselves as newspapers, but rely heavily on sports betting, could undergo major changes.

The BGC again urges the government to ensure that the new rules are clearly formulated so that they can be effectively monitored, both when granting or renewing a license and during on-site inspections ”, said the BGC.

The changes are requested because the Law of 28 November 2021 is being unveiled. Section 42 of the law, according to the BGC, should be more specific on what constitutes a “secondary” activity.

The BGC says that sports betting in these stores should only be a “side business”, not their main source of income. They believe this causes damage to society and makes it harder for regulators to implement and oversee player protections.

Sports betting is not the only target

The BGC isn’t just looking to keep sports betting out of the newspaper stores. He also believes these stores are focused on selling other vices, such as lotto tickets, cigarettes, and alcohol. The royal decree would also make it more difficult for stores to offer these products.

The goal is not to cut businesses completely. The degree would allow stores to continue operating if they abide by the new rules and pay a fee. Licensed sellers would have to pay “a certain percentage of the sale of news articles” to continue and new restrictions, such as when bets can be taken, would be implemented.

It would be easy to know who would qualify, according to the BGC. Only points of sale which have permanent contracts for a “significant supply” of material with a press distributor would be eligible.

The BGC has also called on the government to suspend the implementation of section 42 for the time being. When lawmakers review the language and a Royal Decree is issued, if published, then the legislation can be put into effect.

More changes coming in 2022

Last September, the Belgian Constitutional Court approved the annulment of the 1999 law on games of chance. This confirms that operators are not allowed to offer different types and games on one website.

The 2018 judgment of the Constitutional Court on the possibility for licensees to offer different types of games through the same domain was followed by the 2018 judgment. The latter concerned the question of whether licensees were allowed to offer sports betting and casino games.

Belgium has periodically updated its gambling laws over the past two years. However, more activity was seen in 2021. As 2022 approaches, it is possible that more updates may be coming.

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