Belgian Sportsbook Legality Under Fire as Gambling Commission Seeks Royal Change

Posted on: December 8, 2021, 09:19h. 

Last updated on: December 8, 2021, 11:33h.

Certain sportsbooks in Belgium might either be forced out of business or be forced to pay big money to continue operating. The Belgian Gambling Commission (BGC) wants a clearer definition of what constitutes a legal sportsbook. Depending on the outcome, this could impact a number of shops already preparing to include sports betting options.

Magali Clavie
Magali Clavie, president of the Belgian Gambling Commission. The organization has asked for a new Royal Decree to better define certain aspects of sports betting. (Image: Belgian Gambling Commission)

Belgium is, like many European countries, in the process of updating its gambling laws. It has been somewhat relaxed in its approach to sports betting, and new language on legal sports betting has caught the BGC’s eye.

In the country, newspaper shops are allowed to take wagers. However, this has created a sort of legal loophole.

According to the BGC, sportsbooks are cropping up under the guise of being a newspaper shop. The commission claims these shops focus most of their efforts on sports wagers and almost none on spreading or selling news.

Royal Decree Needed

As a result, the BGC wants the government to issue a Royal Decree that would better explain who can offer sports betting activity. Should the request be fulfilled, shops that present themselves as newspaper outlets, but rely heavily on sports betting, could be in for some major changes.

The BGC once again urges the government to ensure that the new rules are clearly formulated so that they can be efficiently monitored, both when a license is granted or renewed and during on-site inspections,” the BGC stated.

The changes are being requested as the Law of 28 November 2021 is being unveiled. Article 42 of the law, according to the BGC, should be more specific about what constitutes a “sideline” activity.

The BGC asserts that sports betting at these shops should only be a “sideline activity,” not their primary source of income. They believe that this is causing damage to society and makes it difficult for regulators to implement and oversee player protections.

Sports Betting Not the Only Target

The BGC isn’t just looking to keep sports betting out of the newspaper shops. It also believes these shops are focusing on selling other vices, like lotto tickets, cigarettes and alcohol. The Royal Decree would make it more difficult for the shops to offer these products, as well.

The goal isn’t to cut the shops off completely. The Degree would allow shops to continue operations if they abide by the new rules and pay fees. Licensed vendors would need to pay a “certain percentage from the sale of press articles” to continue and new restrictions, such as when bets can be taken, would be implemented.

It would be easy to track who would qualify, according to the BGC. Only those outlets that have standing contracts for a “large supply” of material with a press distributor would be eligible.

The BGC has also asked the government to hold off on implementing Article 42 for now. When lawmakers revisit the language and a Royal Decree is issued, if it’s issued, then the legislation can be put into force.

More Changes Coming in 2022

This past September, Belgium’s Constitutional Court approved the annulment of the 1999 Gambling Act. This confirms that operators are not allowed to offer different types and games on one website.

The 2018 ruling of the Constitutional Court on whether licensees may offer different types of games via the same domain was followed by the 2018 ruling. The latter was regarding whether licensees were allowed to offer sports betting and casino gambling.

Belgium has been updating its gambling laws periodically for the past couple of years. However, more activity has been seen in 2021. As 2022 rolls around, it’s possible that more updates will be coming.