Belgium’s BAGO slams plan to separate betting and gaming accounts

| By Daniel O'Boyle
A proposal that could see Belgian players forced to register for separate online betting and casino accounts has been attacked as potentially damaging to safer gambling efforts by local operator association BAGO.

The proposal comes in the form of an amendment to a bill first introduced in the Chamber of Representatives in 2019, to ban operators from offering different classes of game on the same website. 

The amendment was put forward as the debate on the 2019 bill finally began, having been postponed for more than two years.

Originally, it would have allowed players to use the same account across different URLs with the same operator. However, the coalition government has now proposed banning the use of a single account for multiple game verticals.

“It is not permitted to use the same player account for participation in games of chance that are operated on the basis of different licences,” the amendment read. “It is also prohibited to transact between different player accounts.”

This followed advice from the Belgian Gaming Commission (BGC), which said that the requirement to operate different URLs may not have a significant impact on player behaviour.

“Due to all kinds of technical methods online, an operator can strictly speaking use a different URL for each type of game as the proposal dictates, but in practice this may not benefit the player much as the operator can work with some kind of sub-URLs,” the regulator explained.

However, operator body the Belgian Association of Gaming Operators (BAGO) warned that the proposal could be “a serious threat to consumer protection”.

BAGO said that players may lose control of their spending with more accounts to keep track of, while operators will find it harder to track player behaviour and to share consolidated data with the BGC.

In addition, it warned the added friction may cause some players to turn to unregulated sites “that by definition do not comply with the rules and therefore do not offer player protection”.

“BAGO therefore advocates maintaining the single player accounts per operator and thus offering more, better and substantiated player protection,” it added.

In Belgium, casino games and sports betting require different kinds of licence, meaning the 2019 bill would have prohibited the two being offered via the same site. A number of court rulings in Belgium have already determined that operators cannot offer different game verticals on the same website, in order to preserve parity with the land-based sector. 

In 2019, Casinos Austria International had its licences annulled for offering both online casino and sports betting together via one website.

Earlier this year, the Belgian government introduced new restrictions on stakes, betting times and advertising for the country’s newsagents, which may offer bookmaking services.

This came after gaming operator Golden Palace acquired the retail network of national postal service Bpost, prompting concern about betting at newsagents.

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