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Belgium’s Over-Regulation Threatens Legal Gambling

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Navigating the Tightrope: Belgium’s Battle Between Regulation and Market Sustainability

In the heart of Europe, Belgium’s gambling sector faces a pivotal challenge. Recent stringent regulations, including a nearly complete ban on gambling advertising introduced on 1 July 2023, have sparked a heated debate about the fine line between protecting consumers and stifling the legal gambling market. Gaming1, a prominent Belgium-based operator, has released a report shedding light on the unintended consequences of these regulatory measures. With evidence pointing to an increase in players turning to illegal websites, the question arises: Are Belgium’s efforts to regulate its gambling industry inadvertently fueling the black market?

The Impact of Advertising Ban on Channelization

The Royal Decree’s Controversial Aftermath

Following the royal decree’s implementation, a noticeable shift occurred. Surveys conducted by Nepa in 2023 revealed a 6% rise in online players gravitating towards illegal sites, with a corresponding 4% increase in deposits on these platforms. These figures underscore a worrying trend: as legal operators face advertising restrictions, players are seeking alternatives, often landing in the less-regulated realms of the internet.

A Surge in Illegal Operators

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Further complicating the landscape, reports from the Belgian Gaming Commission (BGC) and Yield Sec illustrate the burgeoning presence of illegal gambling sites. With a blacklist spanning 500 sites and a 4.4-fold increase in illegal operators in 2023 alone, the challenge of curtailing unregulated gambling activities is more daunting than ever.

The Lure of the Illegal Market

Attractiveness of Unregulated Play

Gaming1 highlights the illegal market’s appeal, noting factors like bigger winnings, ease of access, and the possibility of underage participation. Without the safeguards of legal operators, such as responsible gaming systems, players venturing into these territories face significant risks, including potential legal repercussions.

Prevalence of Illegal Sites

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An IPSOS survey, in collaboration with the BGC, found that four of the ten most well-known gaming websites in Belgium operate outside the legal framework. This visibility and recognition of illegal platforms underscore the uphill battle faced by regulators and legal operators alike in reclaiming the market.

The Double-Edged Sword of Over-Regulation

Belgium’s Protective Measures Backfire

In its quest to safeguard players, Belgium has introduced a series of regulatory changes since 2020, including banning bonuses and free bets, implementing a weekly deposit limit of €200, and raising the sports betting age limit to 21. Gaming1’s report criticizes these measures as overly restrictive and counterproductive, arguing that they stigmatize rather than scientifically address the issue of problem gambling.

Economic and Employment Implications

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The gambling sector, employing approximately 16,000 people in Belgium and contributing around €1.17 billion annually in taxes, is a significant economic pillar. The report warns that the current regulatory trajectory threatens not only the sector’s sustainability but also its considerable contributions to the national economy.

A Call for a Nuanced Regulatory Approach

Advocating for Constructive Solutions

Gaming1 proposes a shift towards a more nuanced regulatory strategy, emphasizing the implementation of self-restriction solutions, self-assessment tests, and personalized messaging based on risk levels. Such measures aim to address problem gambling effectively without alienating legal operators or pushing players towards the black market.

Striking a Regulatory Balance

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The report stresses the importance of dialogue and cooperation between lawmakers, regulators, and the gambling industry to establish a regulatory framework that protects consumers while ensuring a competitive and vibrant legal gambling market.

Conclusion: A Path Forward Amid Regulatory Challenges

Belgium’s gambling industry stands at a crossroads, with current regulatory policies pushing players towards unregulated alternatives and challenging the sector’s viability. Gaming1’s report illuminates the urgent need for a balanced approach to gambling regulation—one that safeguards consumers without undermining market channelization. As Belgium navigates these complex waters, the goal remains clear: to foster a regulated gambling environment that thrives on both consumer protection and market competitiveness.

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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