Gambling Ads Banned in Belgium from July 2023

The country of Belgium is going to ban gambling ads. The ban will come into effect from July 2023 after which sports sponsorships will also be affected. Almost all forms of advertising are banned in 2023, with an initial exception for sports sponsorships, which are allowed to continue until 2025. The minimum age for all games of chance is going to be set at 21 years, where it is now 18 years for some games.

According to Vincent Van Quickenborne, “playing with lives” is over, a somewhat dramatical way of describing how much Belgian politicians wanted gambling ads to be banned in their country. The Belgian Minister of Justice has announced on Friday December 16 that all gambling advertisements will be banned from July 1, 2023.

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“Gambling Maffia”

In a message on LinkedIn and Instagram, the minister did not hold back and called the online casinos gambling mafia, although the ban mainly applies to legal and licensed online casinos:

We do not bow to the gambling mafia and restrict gambling advertising. […] Too many families have been ruined by gambling. 40% of the profits of gambling companies come from people with gambling problems. This has to stop. With this decision, we will put an end to the devastating tsunami of gambling advertising.

Vincent Van Quickenborne, Minister of Justice Belgium

In a statement on teamjustitie.be, a website of the federal public service of justice in Belgium, the minister explains that the plan to ban gambling advertising is going ahead, because no objections have been received from the Council of State and the European Commission. EU member state Malta previously opposed the Belgian government’s intention to restrict gambling advertisements.

The government is deeply concerned about the impact of the massive amounts of gambling advertising we are facing, especially to minors. […] Scientific research, confirmed by a report from the Superior Health Council from 2017, shows that limiting gambling advertising is a very effective preventive measure to combat gambling addiction.

TeamJustitie.be

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Almost all gambling advertising banned in Belgium

The following forms of advertising will be banned from July 1, 2023 in Belgium:

  • Commercials on television, radio and in cinemas.
  • Advertising and video advertising on websites, digital channels and social media platforms.
  • Advertisements in magazines or newspapers.
  • Posters in public places.
  • Personalised advertising via email, post, messaging services, SMS or social media and all printed advertising.

According to the report, only people who “actively seek information about gambling and want to gamble” will therefore continue to see gambling advertisements.

Other Ruler for Sports Sponsorships

Sports clubs are allowed to continue their sponsorships until January 1, 2025. After this date gambling related advertisements will be banned from the stadiums, including banners, posters, advertising panels, and commercials. Until December 31, 2027, a logo with the name of a gambling operator may still be displayed on shirts of sports clubs as long as it adheres to the following requirements. The name of the gambling company may not:

  • Be shown on the front side of the shirt.
  • Be no larger than 75 square centimetres (7.5 centimetres by 10 centimetres).
  • Contain a tagline.

From 1 January 2028, gambling advertising in professional sports will be completely banned. This excludes amateur sports who will still be allowed to be sponsored by online casinos. The above criteria apply, except for the size requirement. From a tax point of view, it will be made less attractive for online casinos to sponsor sports clubs, even on an amateur level, because it will no longer be deductible. The gradual bans will severely affect different international operators that offer their services in Belgium.

Gambling companies bwin and Betway are currently sponsors of the Belgian football league, the Pro League. Almost all football clubs from the highest level in Belgium have a gambling company as a sponsor. This includes RSC Anderlecht (Lotto, National Lottery), KV Mechelen (Royal Palace), Club Brugge (Unibet), Standard Liège (Circus), Royal Antwerp (betFIRST), KRC Genk (Star Casino), USG (Lotto, National Lottery) , KAA Gent (Circus) and Cercle Brugge (Napoleon). Only the third tier German-speaking club KAS Eupen does not have a gambling company as a sponsor.

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Minimum Age to 21 Years

In addition to the ban on gambling advertisements in Belgium, the age for all (online) games of chance will be set as 21 years or older. In Belgium, different licences are issued for the different games of chance with different age requirements for each category. Online casinos in the country can only be visited from 21 years or older, whilst sports betting is allowed from 18 years and older. The same minimum age of 18 years applies for online bingo. What the exact consequence is for players who are currently between the ages of 18 and 21 with an account at an online casino has not been defined.

“40% of the Turnover Comes from Gambling Addicts”

The ministry states that problem gamblers are responsible for 40% of the turnover of gambling sites which is one of the reasons for the ban. This number has been stated in different international studies, although the sources have not yet been revealed by the Belgian government. That statement is largely inconsistent with various gambling companies that indicate that they currently earn about 3% of their turnover from gambling addicts. According to teamjustitie.be, Belgian gambling addicts also spend an average of 42% of their income on gambling. Furthermore, teamjustitie.be claims that:

  • 33% of the intensive gamblers that were part of the study are sensitive to e-mails from gambling companies.
  • Vulnerable people are most influenced by gambling advertising. Just under 30% of job seekers who do not gamble would have indicated that gambling advertising could convince them to start gambling.
  • The number of people who voluntarily placed themselves in EPIS (the self-exclusion list for gamblers in Belgium) has increased by 70% since 2014.

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