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Belgium’s Proposed Gambling Legislation Faces Criticism from BAGO



Belgium’s Tightening Grip on Gambling: A Controversial Leap

Belgium is on the verge of implementing one of the most stringent gambling legislations in Western Europe. Spearheaded by Green MP Stefaan Van Hecke, a bill approved by the Chamber of Representatives aims to drastically reshape the Belgian gambling landscape. The legislation proposes an increase in the minimum gambling age from 18 to 21 years for all forms except the lottery, coupled with restrictions limiting operators to a single type of gambling activity, such as online casino or sports betting.

BAGO’s Stance: A Sector Under Threat

The Belgian Association of Gaming Operators (BAGO) has voiced strong opposition to these legislative changes, warning of detrimental effects on the sector. BAGO argues that such restrictions could inadvertently drive consumers towards unlicensed gambling providers, citing Italy’s experience where an estimated €18.5 billion annually flows into illegal gambling sites post-advertising ban.

The Debate Over Player Protection and Industry Viability

BAGO highlights a critical concern regarding player oversight. By restricting operators to one type of betting, the ability to monitor comprehensive player spending and detect potential problematic behavior could be compromised. This move is seen as counterintuitive to fostering a responsible gambling environment. Additionally, BAGO questions the fairness of maintaining the lottery’s minimum age at 18 while increasing it for other gambling forms.

Populism vs. Practicality: The Industry’s Plea for Balanced Regulation

BAGO Chairman Tom De Clercq expresses frustration over the disregard of industry-provided solutions in favor of “populist formulas.” He emphasizes BAGO’s support for restricted advertising, including through traditional media, but cautions against total advertising bans in spaces dominated by illegal operators, especially online. Such a ban could have severe unintended consequences, pushing players towards unregulated markets.


BAGO’s Proactive Approach: The Duty of Care Mandate

In response to the legislative shift, BAGO established a self-imposed Duty of Care mandate in November, signed by all six association members, including major players like Ardent Group, Betfirst, and Kindred. This initiative, covering 70% of Belgium’s regulated market, demonstrates the industry’s commitment to responsible gambling. BAGO extends an invitation to other private operators to join this agreement, showcasing a unified industry front aiming to balance regulation with sustainable market practices.

Conclusion: Navigating a Tightrope of Regulation and Industry Sustainability

As Belgium navigates this legislative tightrope, balancing the need for player protection with industry sustainability remains a critical challenge. BAGO’s position underscores the complexity of gambling regulation, where measures intended for consumer safety could inadvertently fuel the growth of illegal gambling markets. The outcome of this legislative journey will be crucial in determining the future of Belgium’s gambling industry and its ability to operate within a framework that is both responsible and viable.

Jerome, a valuable addition to the Gamingo.News team, brings with him extensive journalistic experience in the iGaming sector. His interest in the industry was sparked during his college years when he participated in local poker tournaments, eventually leading to his exposure to the burgeoning world of online poker and casino rooms. Jerome now utilizes his accumulated knowledge to fuel his passion for journalism, providing the team with the latest online scoops.

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