Date: 09.02.2024

by Antoni Majewski

Belgium Tightens Grip on Gambling: Stricter Laws Aimed at Curbing Addiction

Belgium is ramping up its efforts to combat gambling addiction with the introduction of even stricter legislation, raising the age limit for gambling from 18 to 21 and imposing a near-total ban on advertising, including within football stadiums. The move comes as part of a broader crackdown on the gambling industry, aimed at addressing the rising number of problem gamblers in the country.

The Age Limit and Advertising Ban: A Comprehensive Approach

Last summer, Belgium implemented new gambling laws, but the federal parliament has now approved more stringent measures. The revised legislation sets the age limit for gambling at 21, aiming to protect younger individuals from the risks associated with gambling addiction. Additionally, all forms of gambling advertising, both online and offline, will be banned, a move intended to reduce the influence of gambling promotion on vulnerable populations.

The ban on advertising poses significant challenges for various stakeholders, including websites, print publications, and sports stadiums, which rely on gambling-related revenue. Notably, the prohibition extends to sports uniforms and stadium walls, with venues given a four-year transition period to explore alternative advertising sources. This shift reflects a concerted effort to prioritize player protection over financial considerations.

Addressing Industry Practices and Combining Gaming Elements

The legislation also targets specific industry practices, such as slot machines in bars, youth clubs, and petrol stations, which will be phased out. Furthermore, the integration of betting and casino-style games in one location or website will no longer be permitted, aiming to prevent the convergence of different forms of gambling and mitigate potential harm to consumers.

The passage of the gambling proposal follows years of legal battles and political debates, with various lawsuits delaying its implementation. The final text, spearheaded by the Flemish green party Groen, signifies a victory for advocates of stricter gambling regulations. A Groen parliamentarian hailed the approval as a milestone in the fight against gambling addiction, emphasizing the importance of prioritizing player protection over industry interests.

Future Outlook and Player Protection

As Belgium enforces its revamped gambling legislation, the focus shifts towards safeguarding vulnerable individuals and promoting responsible gambling practices. The adoption of stricter age limits and advertising bans reflects a proactive approach to addressing the challenges posed by gambling addiction. With the new laws in place, Belgium aims to create a safer and more regulated gambling environment, prioritizing the well-being of its citizens.

Objective Commentary:

Belgium’s decision to tighten regulations on gambling reflects a growing recognition of the need to address the harmful impacts of excessive gambling. By raising the age limit and implementing a comprehensive advertising ban, the government demonstrates its commitment to protecting vulnerable individuals, particularly young adults, from the potential pitfalls of gambling addiction.

While the legislation may pose challenges for the gambling industry and associated businesses, it represents a significant step towards fostering responsible gambling practices and safeguarding public health. As Belgium moves forward with its revamped regulatory framework, continued vigilance and collaboration between policymakers, industry stakeholders, and advocacy groups will be crucial in ensuring effective implementation and enforcement of the new laws.