The gaming industry in Belgium has been liberalised as of 2011. The Belgian Gaming Commission regulates and monitors the New Belgian Gaming Act, that since then also included online gaming regulations. Belgium is a notoriously strict market, and any casinos offering services to Belgian players must be licensed by the BGC and have a dedicated domain in place.
The latest regulation in Belgium stipulates that, in order to offer online gaming services, a company must either have a land-bases license or a company must be in partnership with a land based company. A physical presence is they key-factor. The Belgium gaming law is, at this moment, considered as one of the most strict ones.
The first online licenses were issued in February 2012, and they were issued to:
A+20635 Pokerstars.be in cooperation with the Casino of Namen
A+8104 Casino777.be in cooperation with the Casino of Spa
A+65721 Partouche.be in cooperation with the Casino of Dinant
The Gaming Commission advises the Belgian government and parliament concerning gambling and is authorised with the registration of applicants for a license.
Under the new gambling act, the minimum age to play in an online casino is 21 years. A player is obliged to register with the online casino filling in a registration form that also requires the ID number of the player.
The new gambling law is a criminal law. This means that offenders that breach this law can be prosecuted. And even if the prosecutor decides to not prosecute, the Belgian Gaming Authority may still impose financial penalties. This brings risks for both the licensee and the player. Fines can run op to EUR 25,000.
Persons that are in a state of prolonged incapability are automatically excluded. People with professions like magistrates, police officers, registrars, solicitors and other professions that relate to serving the law are not allowed to participate in gambling in any form.
In Belgium, the licenses for online gambling websites have a supplementary addition the “+”.
A-A+: The A License is for companies that run a land based casino in Belgium, like the casino in Spa. The online version, the A+ license is consequently only to be applied for by A-License holders.
B-B+: The B License is for companies that run a gaming arcade in Belgium. The online version, the B+ license is consequently only to be applied for by B-License holders.
C: The C license is for bars that place bingo machines that have id card readers, to be able to prevent minors from playing.
D: The D license is for all personnel working in a gaming establishment. The gaming commission regularly organises courses by an e-learning system. After finishing the course, the participant gets the D license which is granted for 5 years.
E: Manufacturers, installer and repair companies of gaming devices must all have to be in possession a the E License.
F1-F2-F1+: Companies that organise wagering on sports and horse racing, require the F1 license. For organisations that accept bets, like bookmakers on the racetracks and newspaper shops the F2 license is required. The F1+ is obviously for online wagering.
G1-G2: Companies that offer gambling on television, telephone games, require G licenses.
The Gaming Commission is responsible for informing players about illegal gambling activities. They do this by publishing a black list of illegal gambling websites that are unlicensed and do not comply with Belgian legislation. To go one step further, the GC then cooperates with Belgian internet service providers to block access to these sites by Belgian internet users. This allows Belgian online players to avoid these sites and consequently risk of criminal sanctions and penalties.
In Belgium, the Federal Public Service of Justice established a central Excluded Persons Information System (EPIS), which holds information of every person entering a casino or online casino. (All players have to submit their citizen service number found on their ID card). This system must be consulted by the operators of games of chance when allowing persons to play.
This register holds persons who themselves have requested to be excluded, persons with a gambling addiction (the exclusion request can be asked by a partner or children of the person in question), and persons who have been allowed to the regime of composition with creditors.
With this information, the gaming commission can easily monitor the player’s gambling behaviour and undertake steps in case needed with for example gambling addiction. All licensees have a real time connection with this system that instantly shows gaming providers whether a person is excluded. If a player is excluded for one site, he is excluded.
The gambling authority in Belgium set loss limits for a period of 24 hours. At time of press, for both A+, the ‘average’ loss per hour is set at EUR 70, for the B+, the average loss per hour is EUR 25. These loss limits automatically impose a cooling down period as a prevention for game addiction. In addition to loss limits, the B+ licensees are also not allowed to accept payments by credit card. This impacts the total deposit potential, because after direct debit methods, credit card deposits are the second biggest source of deposits.
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