Belgium Threatens Online Gamblers With Three Years Behind BarsMarch 21, 2014 1:15 pm
Belgium’s Gambling Commission has increased the number of its inspectors from seven to fifteen in an effort to clamp down on unauthorized gambling and thus consolidate the country’s gambling industry. Although the directive targets offline players, such as those playing on illegal betting machines in bars, the BGC is also considering extending “its actions to online players,” according to Patrick Van Eecke from international law firm DLA Piper.
“It will be interesting to see how far the BGC wishes to go in fining individual players and whether the Public Prosecution office is also willing to make infringements in this area a matter of prosecution priority,” stated Van Eecke.
In 2011, the amended Belgian Gaming Act created an online gambling market which required internet operators to partner with a land-based casino before obtaining a Belgium online gaming license. In addition, the piece of legislation also stipulated that players caught gambling at unlicensed websites named on its blacklist could face a fine of up to €150,000 and a maximum of three years behind bars.
The blacklist, which is constantly being updated, currently totals 97 websites with many top brands named including 888, Betsson and Bet365. Other big operators, such as PokerStars, bwin, Partouche, Unibet, GoldenPalace.BE and Win2Day, have already obtained the necessary licenses to ensure their players are not breaking the law.
To date, no players have been prosecuted, but that that may be about to change soon, and as law firm DLA Piper, reports: “After four years we expect that they should know what is legal and what is not. Therefore we will also tackle them,” explained BGC spokeswoman Marjolein De Paepe
Belgium is a Western European country of 11 million people, that has been a hub of commerce and culture since the Middle Ages. As EU host the country also has a responsibility to present itself as a model nation, but the draconian measures currently being pursued by Belgium’s Gambling Commission, if enacted, are likely to take it further out of alignment with European Union mandates.