Shaking up Belgium's Gambling Industry

What Changes will the Belgian Authorities Make?

At the heart of this evolution is Belgium's Minister for Justice Koen Geens, who has been tasked by the Council of Ministers with overseeing the regulatory measures used to govern the gambling industry.

His first challenge will be to regulate the advertisement of gambling services through regional and national broadcast media. Under Geens initial proposals, an 8pm watershed would be introduced, meaning that no sponsored gambling messages will be shared prior to this time. Not only this, but gambling advertisements would be banned during all live sporting events, in order to prevent operators from tapping into the lucrative in-play market and potentially targeting vulnerable gamblers.

Similarly, ministers want to handle the potentially complex task of banning gambling content and advertising from sportswear and equipment. This could impede sporting teams that have affiliations with sports betting brands (think of Anderlecht's alliance with bwin, for example), although it is likely that existing agreements would need to be accommodated in the short-term.

What This Mean for the National and Global Industry?

These changes will mark the evolution rather than the evolution of Belgium's gambling laws, which have remained largely unchanged since 1999. They are also clearly focused on ensuring that operators adhere to responsible gambling principles at all time, in order to ensure compliance and protect vulnerable individuals at all times.

In many ways, this will be seen as a positive by operators, and there are two main reasons for this. Firstly, most of the proposed changes will not have a detrimental impact on brands, with digital and social advertising channels enabling operators to optimise both reach and engagement. If you consider the potential ban on sportswear and equipment advertising, such legislation will be difficult to implement while brands could probably negate the law by refining the way in which they promote themselves and their logos.

Secondly, the concept of responsible gambling is something that savvy brands have thrown their considerable weight behind, as they look to create a compliant business model and a positive market position. In short, forward-thinking operators will ensure that they become ambassadors for responsible gambling, enabling them to build trust with their customers and drive brand loyalty.

Given this, the proposed changes should also have a negligible impact on the global market, which continues to be driven by Europe and the UK. The introduction of more stringent regulations will also bring Belgian laws in line with those in the rest of Europe, creating an improved experience for gamblers across the board.
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