Gambling in Belgium
Gambling in Belgium is a legal entertainment. Gambling activities were legalised on May 7, 1999. Online gambling was legalised in 2002. The Gaming Commission of Belgium is the authority that regulates the gambling market and issues licenses. These are the establishments that are in operation in the country today: 3 horse racetracks, 9 land-based casinos and over 2,600 places that accept bets. According to the data for 2015, the gross income from the gambling industry in Belgium amounted to 360.1 million EUR, 54.6 million of which was the profit from bookmakers.
Gambling Games in Belgium
In Belgium the most popular ones are modern slots with multiple bonuses, storylines and 3D animation. The list of the slots favoured by online users includes products of such companies as Betsoft, NetEnt, Pragmatic Play, NYX Gaming and QuickSpin. They include: Viking Age (Betsoft), Gonzos Quest (NetEnt), Queen of Gold (Pragmatic Play), Titan Thunder (QuickSpin) and The Spin Lab (NYX Gaming). Among gaming machines with digital table games, Belgians prefer products by NetEnt, Playtech and iSoftBet. While analysing the list of popular apps in Belgium's online casinos, it must be noted that games with quality visual components, a convenient control panel and various extra options are the ones most in demand.
Even new and not so famous companies (such as Endorphina, for example) have had a greater success than the giants of the gambling industry such as Novomatic or IGT. First of all it is due to the fact that the audience of gambling facilities, including online platforms, is getting younger. The number of ladies who like to gamble has been increasing as well. Unlike men, they prefer colourful and diverse gameplay.
Belgian legislation allows the organisation and provision of gambling games. The games include any type of entertainment that involves placing bets. They include: card games and table games, slot machines and sports betting. Sports competitions are not ranked among the gambling games. Also, the card and table games that are played during carnivals and fairs are not considered as gambling, as they are organised for charity purposes. Any operation in the area of gambling is permissible only if a license has been issued by the Gaming Commission of Belgium. Advertising unlicensed facilities and participation in games on these platforms is punishable by law.
Gaming regulators and laws
Operations of gambling platforms are regulated by the Gaming Commission of Belgium. The commission operates in compliance with the Gaming and Betting Act adopted in May 7, 1999 and the 2002 Law on the Legalisation of Online Gambling. Two Royal Decrees cover online gambling industry in addition to the pertinent laws. The first Decree states that the operator must provide the data concerning its name, the structure of the website, the server and the contacts. The second Decree requires that the operator provides the following information:
- Creditworthiness of the operator
- Financial liabilities
- The company's marketing policies
- Protection of personal data and transactions made by the clients
- Policies concerning socially vulnerable groups of the population
The Decrees require an ongoing interaction between the operators of online gambling platforms and the Gaming Commission of Belgium. Gambling services are liable to taxation. The tax rate is 11% of the operator's gross revenue. Since July 2016, value added tax for online casinos has been increased to 21%.
Online Gambline in Belgium
Online gambling has been allowed in the territory of Belgium since 2002. А+, В+ and F1+ licenses are only issued to those people or companies that are represented physically. It means that in order to conduct sports betting one has to have an F1 bookmakers license and own at least one physical betting point. The popularity of online gambling has been increasing year after year. The increase in demand can be tracked by analysing the reports of annual revenues of online facilities. In 2014, for example, the revenues of internet casinos was 54 million EUR, which is double the profit indicated in the report for 2013. In 2015 online gambling halls made 49.8 million EUR, and bookmakers that accept bets on their websites made 46.3 million EUR. These are the establishments that are registered in Belgium today:
- Online casinos - 101
- Internet poker rooms - 14
- Sports betting websites - 21
- Online bingo websites 18
- Mobile online casinos - 14
- Online lottos - 3
- Fantasy sports betting websites - 2
Besides slots and online table games, there are other types of gambling entertainment that are popular in Belgium. They include bingo, lotto and fantasy sports. Also, the popularity of mobile casinos has been on the rise lately.
Gaming Commission of Belgium issues several types of licenses. They include:
- Class A license - issued to casinos for the period of 15 years
- А+ - setting up an online casino
- В - gambling halls with slot machines, issued for the period of 9 years
- В+ - slot machines and online arcades
- С - issued to drinking establishments so they can have slot machines in their venues
- D - operating license that covers all classes listed above
- E - license for purchase and sales, and import and export of gambling equipment
- F1, F1+ and F2 - licenses that cover betting, which authorise the holder to accept bets in land-based points of sale, as well as from online and mobile devices
- G1 and G2 - licenses for conducting lotteries and tournaments with the involvement of TV broadcasting companies and other media
Licensing in Belgium requires payments to be made. A casino license costs 15,000 EUR, a license to run gambling halls costs 7,500 EUR, and a license to sell and repair gambling equipment costs 2,500 EUR. A company may hold only one type of license. The application for a license is submitted to the Gaming Commission of Belgium along with a number of documents. They include:
- Personal identification of the founder/founders of the company
- A certificate of compliance with political and civil rights
- Notarised copies of tax returns (last three)
- An extract from the judicial report (no later than three months from the date of receipt)
Sufficient capital to qualify for a permit to run a gambling industry. The size of the capital depends on the type of license:
- А, А+ - 250,000 EUR
- B, B+ - 75,000 EUR
- E - 25,000 EUR
- F1 - 10,000 EUR
- F1+ - 75,000 EUR
- G1 - 80,000 EUR
Licensed gambling in Belgium
The list of permitted gambling is regulated by Royal Decree. The Decree complements the 1999 Gambling Act. Table games and automatic games are allowed in Belgian casinos. Table games include poker, baccarat, blackjack, roulette, sic bo and bingo. Automatic games include slots, betting terminals, video poker and others. Slot machines provide a number of games for establishments of various types. These are the slots that are available in casinos: Ones with reels and video slots, Video poker, Digital versions of bingo and keno, Horse racing betting terminals and The Wheel of Fortune. Gambling halls are allowed to have slot machines (up to 30) and digital versions of table games: Blackjack, Poker, Roulette games, Betting terminals and Dice games. Drinking establishments are allowed to have no more than two slot machines. Digital version of pool is one of the games that are allowed.
Laws protecting gamblers in Belgium
Persons who have reached the age of 21 have the right to visit casinos and gambling halls. Persons over the age of 18 can play slot machines and place bets in drinking establishments. Payments are made in cash in all types of facilities, except for the casinos. Bank cards are only accepted in land-based facilities and online casino platforms if the transaction amount exceeds 10,000 EUR.
Bets in casinos and gambling halls are accepted using coupons or chips, which are bought for real money. Bonus coupons and chips can also be converted to real money in these establishments. The only bets that are accepted in real currency are sports bets. The King of Belgium is the one who sets the limits for bets, wins and losses: in gambling halls you can place your bets in amounts that are no higher than 25 EUR in one hour, in drinking establishments the overall hourly bet cannot exceed 12.5 EUR and in betting points you can bet no more that 12.5 EUR in one hour. Any violation of the Gambling Law on the part of the operators is punishable by one month to three years of confinement. Violators will also pay a fine of 0.64 to 2,478 EUR. In the case of a repeated violation, the penalties will be doubled, the facility's money seized and the gambling equipment impounded.
Belgium Gambling Software Developers
Today there are no prominent Belgian developers of online slots in the world's gambling market. The developers that operate in the gambling industry are mostly preoccupied with the production of equipment and software products for land-based casinos. They are: Belgian Gaming Technology, Elaut N.V. (Victory & Dice Roulette), GAA and Seeben. Belgian Gaming Technology supplies the equipment for the casinos, distributes physical slot machines made by manufacturers worldwide and provides services and technical support.
Elaut N.V. (Victory & Dice Roulette) manufactures the equipment for land-based casinos. The company produces roulette games and the dice and sets up combined platforms for table games. GAA is a developer and distributor of equipment for table games and bingo. Seeben supplies digital equipment and software products for casinos throughout Belgium.
Development of the Gambling Market in Belgium
Today the gambling industry in Belgium is legalised and well-developed. Gambling services are provided both in land-based facilities and online. Most of the companies represented on the Belgian gambling market are local. Yet the Gaming Commission also cooperates with the world famous suppliers. For example, Belgians have been using the services of famous poker rooms such as Poker Stars and Party Poker, which do not belong to any of the local operators. Last year the Betcenter online sportsbook launched an affiliate programme with a Canadian developer named Income Access. And the management of an authoritative national brand called Circus Group entered into a partnership with Betsoft, a developer of software products for online casinos. The Belgian government is planning to further support the integration of national market with the gambling market worldwide. At the same time, legislation will continue to stick to the policies of protecting the players from gambling addiction, to impose limits on permissible amounts of bets and losses and to blacklist any suspicious platforms.
Gambling industry in Belgium is strictly regulated by legislation. Both land-based and web-based facilities operate exclusively under the licenses issued by the Gaming Commission of Belgium. Each year the commission inspects various online platforms and checks them for reliability, while controlling the market. Any suspicious or banned websites are blacklisted immediately.Gambling industry in Belgium brings millions in profits, yet at the same time cares about the safety of the consumers. Decrees by the King of Belgium impose limits on bets and losses allowable within the period of one hour. These are the measures taken to fight ludomania.