Belgium’s Extreme Gambling Measures Worry the BAGO

Belgium’s Extreme Gambling Measures Worry the BAGO

The Belgian Association for Gaming Operators (BAGO) is concerned about the government’s approach to gambling. The Association asked lawmakers to be more moderate and practical instead of imposing extreme solutions.

Belgium’s Measures Hurt the Market

This warning came as a response to the recent 2020/2021 market report by the Belgium Gaming Commission, the country’s gambling regulator. According to the report, the sector suffered extensive damages because of the disastrous COVID-19 pandemic.  

Official data demonstrated that six months of lockdown caused brick-and-mortar casinos to lose a little more than half of their usual revenues. The local industry’s revenues plummeted to $214 million. When online gambling is taken into consideration, the industry experienced an overall 17.8% decline in gross gaming revenues.

The gambling authority emphasized that most customers didn’t stop playing and instead picked the online alternative. However, the BAGO argues that many of those customers went to the black market. Because of the regulator’s suboptimal measures, about 20% of the players picked offshore operators. As if this wasn’t enough, recent research by Ghent University demonstrated that about 30% of the gambling ads in Belgium come from unlicensed companies.  

Ineffective Solutions Cannot Achieve their Goals

Vincent Van Quickenborne, Belgium’s justice minister, recently proposed yet another extreme measure. In order to deal with the aforementioned problem, the minister proposed to introduce a blanket ban on gambling ads. The BAGO argues that this will not help to solve the problem. On the contrary, it would likely prompt more people to go to the black market.

Another ineffective measure that the Justice Committee proposed was to make players create a separate account for each genre of gambling game that they want to play with the same company. Instead of this artificial measure, the BAGO proposed to force licensees to be more responsible. The Association claims that monitoring systems that track high-risk players make much more sense and are already proven to work in other jurisdictions.

The BAGO Asked the Government to Be More Sensible

The BAGO said that it will gladly work alongside the regulator to find solutions that actually work. According to the Association, it is crucial to find restrictions that make sense and channel people towards the legal alternative.

Tom De Clercq, president of the BAGO, urged the government to be more sensible and careful with its approach. He asked the authorities to be more responsible when it comes to handling high-risk bettors. Currently, less than 1% of the people in Belgium are at risk of gambling addiction. However, De Clercq reminded the government that every addict is one addict too many.