Belgium informs EC of further gambling advertising restrictions

Belgian lawmakers are apparently aiming to introduce more restrictions on gambling advertising to enhance player protection, as communicated by the European Commission (EC).

Originating from the country’s Offences and Special Procedures Department and received by the EC on 8 May, the draft is entitled ‘Draft Royal Decree laying down detailed rules for advertising gambling’,

The core aims of the decree are to ‘limit the forms of advertising’ betting and gaming operators have at their disposal, relating to both ‘real world’ gambling and operators using ‘information service tools’. 

Additionally, legislators intend to ‘impose rules on the content of such advertising’ – potentially referring to clampdowns on the use of sporting figures, as implemented in the neighbouring Netherlands.

In the ‘statement of grounds’ section of the EC’s announcement, it was asserted: “Gambling advertising is ubiquitous on television, radio, social media and the streets. 

“Such advertising is not without danger to public health and society. Advertising normalises gambling in society. Through advertising, gambling is presented as socially and culturally acceptable behaviour and as a legitimate leisure activity. 

“This is detrimental to more vulnerable groups such as minors, young people and gambling addicts. In the absence of a rule at European Union level, Member States are free to lay down the rules in this area.”

Betting advertising has fallen under the legislative spotlight in Belgium for some time, having been a target of Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborn since May.

According to local media, the Minister had proposed his own Royal Decree which would seek to ban most forms of advertising by the end of 2023 and any marketing in sports by the close of 2024.

Equating gambling to ‘the new smoking’, Van Quickenborn targeted a ban on advertising in print, TV, radio and online media – including social media – as well as posters in public places and personalised digital or post advertising.

The Minister was met with some criticism and concern at the time, however, with opposition MPs, betting figures and sports leaders pointing to potential financial consequences for football clubs, a boost to the black market and the fact that the ad ban would not apply to the National Lottery.

Notable individuals to have raised concerns about the ban were Reformist Movement (MR) leader Senator Georges-Louis Bouchez, Kindred Belgium General lManager Dennis Mariën and Pro League CEO Lorin Parys.

Under current Belgian advertising law – based on a 2019 decree – sponsorship is defined as a form of advertising, and companies marketing games of chance must feature messaging such as the official ‘Gamble in moderation!” slogan and minimum age requirements. 

Separately, a recent Royal Decree which has now fully come into force has reduced the player deposit limit on games of chance from €500 to €200, although players can request that an operator allow them to increase their spend.

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