Belgium will implement new responsible gambling protections from 1 September, which are expected to significantly impact operators in the industry. The updated rules will impose further restrictions on operators, following the enforcement of a gambling advertising ban on 1 July 2023. The new law also includes a ban on gambling inducements, such as bonuses or free bets. The aim of this move is to reduce the risk of gambling addiction and curb its allure among the population. Additionally, the legal gambling age in Belgium will be raised from 18 to 21 as part of the country’s efforts to protect younger individuals from the potential harms of gambling. The law also strengthens the previously implemented gambling ad ban by prohibiting all forms of advertising unless specifically approved by the government.

The purpose of this measure is to restrict the public’s exposure to gambling activities. The new regulations were initially approved by Belgium’s Chamber of Representatives in January. The legislation was originally suggested by Stefaan Van Hecke, a Green MP who spent five years advocating for these changes. Notably, the country’s National Lottery has been excluded from the new regulations, and the advertising ban and age increase do not apply to the organization.

The exemption has caused controversy among some MPs. Although regulations have become stricter, there are concerns about the growth of Belgium’s black market. Critics argue that the enhanced regulations could drive players to the unlicensed market. In December, the Belgian Association of Gaming Operators (BAGO) released a survey showing that 43% of vulnerable respondents admitted to gambling on an unlicensed site in the past three months. The association estimated that 16% of player spending is directed towards the unlicensed market. These new regulations demonstrate Belgium’s commitment to responsible gambling. However, the challenge remains to balance player protection with the risk of driving players towards unregulated markets.

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