Philippe Vlaemminck, the managing partner of Pharumlegal – a Brussels-based law firm specializing in EU law and strategic consultancy – has provided a deeper insight into the current state of the gambling legislation in Belgium and shared curious information regarding the challenges the industry is facing now. More details regarding this field are available in the latest news about gambling.
Philippe, as your work is directly connected with the law, you probably know much about gambling regulations. What can you say about the current state of this type of legislation in Belgium?
Belgium has a legal framework established in 1999 and adapted in 2010 to embrace online gambling. Of course, the legislation required further small adjustments. Today while the structure is certainly not bad, given the various developments in the gambling sector, it may be useful to do a complete screening and consider modernizing the legal structure. I have a number of ideas that I shared with the government. At the moment, the government has other priorities.
Is it difficult to get a gambling license in your country? What are the toughest requirements that operators face during licensing?
The number of licenses is limited and currently, no additional licenses are available except for class B (gaming arcades) and horse race betting. The licensing regime is very transparent and applications are not very difficult. The question of solvability is sometimes an issue, but not a major problem for serious operators.
Which iGaming sector meets with the biggest number of obstacles in terms of the law in Belgium?
Online gambling is only permitted through additional licenses and thus connected to the land-based license. In the beginning, online operators were reluctant to this regime, but nowadays the see the important benefit of cooperating with land-based operators in a stable market. The problems do mainly come from one single operator who is challenging everything in court and attacks all other operators. Nobody, not even the government, understands the reasoning behind this disruptive approach, but it requires serious legal efforts from the government and operators to respond to these challenges.
Does the legislative framework of gambling regulations allow the gambling industry in the country to develop and increase revenue?
The Gambling legislation does permit a controlled expansion of the activities in a responsible manner. Not everybody is always happy with the restrictions, but they are often necessary to maintain a coherent policy in line with the case-law of the Court of Justice of the EU. At the end of it, it is always a matter of balancing the different interests. Of course, there are challenges as everywhere in Europe. Advertising is an important issue where further discussion is required.
Does illegal gambling exist in Belgium? How does Belgium fight against the black market?
The fight against illegal gambling is well structured through cooperation with the Cybercrime Unit of the Judicial authorities, the ISP, and the banking sector who all joined forces to stop the illegal gambling activities. IP and geoblocking mechanisms have proven to be working efficiently. Of course, the fight against illegal gambling is never-ending.
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