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Belgium report warns of impact of over-regulation on channelisation

| By Kyle Goldsmith
A report from Belgium-based operator Gaming1 has highlighted concerns over the effect of over-regulation on channelisation.
Belgium Gambling Act

On 1 July 2023, Belgium introduced a near total ban on gambling advertising. This was after a consortium of sports teams and gaming operators were defeated in a last-ditch legal bid challenging the royal decree.

The ban faced backlash, with Belgium gambling trade body Bago highlighting the government’s decision to act against the advice of the country’s Gambling Commission when imposing the ban.

Gaming1’s report has now outlined the impact of the royal decree on channelisation towards legal operators in Belgium.

Gaming1 pointed to surveys conducted by Nepa in 2023. The studies found a 6% rise in online players using an illegal website in the past three months following the royal decree, as well as a 4% increase on deposits made on illegal gaming websites.

In its report, Gaming1 highlighted the results of two major studies. The first from the Belgian Gaming Commission (BGC), which has a blacklist of 500 illegal sites to date. The second report from Yield Sec reveals a 4.4-fold increase in illegal operators in 2023, with 2,214 sites identified by Yield Sec.


Dangers of the illegal market

With a busy sporting summer coming up, Gaming1 stated it was now more important than ever to combat illegal play.

This could prove challenging, however. Gaming1 outlined bigger winnings, ease of access and the possibility of playing under the legal age requirement of 21-years-old as key attractions for the black market.

As a result, players are at risk of prosecution when playing with illegal operators. There is also no safety net or responsible gaming system available to protect them from harm.

Illegal sites are prevalent, too. A survey from IPSOS and the Belgian Gaming Commission (BGC) found that four of the top 10 best-known gaming websites in Belgium are illegal.

Over-regulation seen as an issue

Gaming1’s report highlighted concerns over the impact of perceived over-regulation on channelisation. In recent years, Belgium has made a number of changes to its gambling market with the aim of protecting players.

However, Gaming1 argues these are becoming “increasingly restrictive”, and sometimes counterproductive when it comes to online gambling.

Since 2020, Belgium has banned bonuses and free bets, while also introducing a €200 (£171.48/$216.54) weekly deposit limit. After the royal decree to almost completely ban advertising came in during 2023, the age limit was then raised for sports betting to 21, a change which is due to come into effect in September of this year.

Gaming1 states these alterations are failing to properly address the problem, with a strategy of stigmatisation used ahead of a scientific approach.

Gaming1 argues that these changes do not address the problem properly. In the company’s view, regulation seems to be based on stigmatising the sector, rather than on a scientific approach. The industry employs approximately 16,000 people in Belgium. BGC data from 2022 also revealed the sector pays around €1.17bn a year in tax into the economy.

Gaming1 calls for nuanced approach

Rather than a strategy it perceives as stigmatisation of the gambling industry, Gaming1 is instead calling for a more considered approach to counter the black market.

The operator pointed to self-restriction solutions, self-assessment tests and personalised messages depending on the risk level as three of the potential tactics that should be better implemented.

Gaming1 also outlined the need to strike the “right balance” between regulation and the creation of a competitive sector. To do this, Gaming1 states the importance of establishing better dialogue between the relevant parties, such as lawmakers and regulators.

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