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Belgium to Ban Most Forms Gambling Ads Starting July 1stBy Jeff Osienya Mar 13, 2023 LegalityOn July 1st, 2023, Belgium will no longer allow gambling advertising on tv, radio, print media, cinemas, and public spaces. With the tighter regulations, the country is looking to prevent gambling harm, particularly for younger and vulnerable populations.
A new Royal Decree approved by Belgium’s King Philippe and published in the Dutch nation’s Official Gazette will see the Belgian Government crackdown on gambling ads starting July 1st, 2023. The recent move by the Belgian government is aimed at clamping down on gambling addiction and debt affecting most of its vulnerable population, particularly the youngsters who go through many gambling-related problems.
When the directive comes into effect, gambling ads will be banned from radio, television, magazines, newspapers, cinemas, and general public spaces. There is also an intention by the government to expand the reach of this directive on January 1st, 2025, by banning online gambling ads.
Further down the road, on January 1st, 2028, the government also intends to ban gambling companies from sponsoring professional sports franchises. The 2028 directive will mainly focus on professional sports teams like pro football (soccer) teams since they have more reach than amateur sports teams. These measures will apply to both local and foreign gaming operators based in Belgium, and sponsorship expenditures by operators will stop enjoying their tax-deductible status.
Why is Belgium Resorting to Such Stern Measures?
The Belgian government justified its upcoming clampdown on recent scientific research, which showed that advertising is a direct cause of gambling addiction and leads to gambling-related debt down the road.
Speaking on the Royal Decree, Belgium’s Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne said:Quote
“The government is deeply concerned about the impact of the huge amounts of gambling advertising that our society is facing. And for those who want to get rid of their gambling addiction, the tsunami of gambling advertising is an additional problem.”
Van Quickenborne is a crucial figure in this fight against gambling ads, having spearheaded the proposals for such a ban as early as last year. His initial proposal was seen as even sterner than the measures coming into effect at the beginning of July.
Under his original proposal, the ban on the sponsorship of sports franchises would come into effect as early as 2024. However, the proposal received much opposition from many gaming industry stakeholders, including the Belgian Association of Gaming Operators (BAGO), which claimed that it would cause the players difficulty distinguishing legal from illegal operators. Quickerbone’s latest measures follow the introduction of limits on the maximum players can spend on gambling, imposed in early 2022.
On top of the government’s push against gambling ads, the Belgian Gambling Commission had also proposed a prohibition of personalized ads explicitly targeting younger demographics. Likewise, the state regulator also targeted a veto for ads promoted to excluded players and those who have not gambled for a long time.
While the gaming watchdog did not provide an age limit on the ‘youthful population’ it was out to protect, the message was clear – changes need to be made in how gambling ads have permeated societal lines in the country. The Commission also requested the powers to crack the whip quickly on any operators that would break the advertising rules. It pronounced itself as follows:Quote
“Experience has shown that an exhaustive enumeration of prohibitions relating to the content of advertising, as currently contained in the Royal Decree of 2018, is not sufficient to prevent abuses and excesses and that certain rules quickly become obsolete and cannot be maintained. Guidelines would have the advantage of being ‘future proof’ and evolutionary in order to reflect the reality and changes on the ground. This would also strengthen the role of the Gambling Commission as a regulator.”
Belgium’s Move Follows on the Footsteps of the Dutch
Belgium’s latest gambling advertising restrictions comes right after its next-door neighbor, the Netherlands, implemented similar limitations on gambling advertising. The Dutch Government forged ahead with its earlier plans to outlaw ‘untargeted’ gambling ads within its boundaries.
Netherland’s ban on broadcast ads came into effect in January this year, with the restrictions on gambling sponsorship for sports teams, venues, and kits set to go into effect in January 2025. Dutch gambling operators will also not be able to sponsor television programs and events from January 1st, 2024.
The plans came from the country’s Ministry of Legal Protection, which had faced unrelenting pressure from the political class, with many MPs calling for stern action on unregulated gambling.
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