On May 8, the European Commission received the Belgian government’s “Draft Royal Decree laying down detailed rules for advertising gambling.” The document was issued by the Offences and Special Procedures Department in Belgium and spoke about a ban that would be imposed on gambling advertisements in the country. The royal decree mentioned one exception: ads belonging to the National Lottery. The Maltese government pushed for a standstill period for the law, asking for it to be expanded to September 9. This, in turn, could affect the implementation of the law, leading to additional challenges.
Gambling Advertising, Ubiquitous in Belgium
Government officials in Belgium explained the way gambling ads have expanded on “television, radio, social media, and the streets”, calling it potentially dangerous to public health and society in general. The text of the dree also mentioned the fact that gambling advertising “normalizes gambling in society” since it is portrayed as something acceptable from both a cultural and social point of view. Ads also turn gambling into a “legitimate leisure activity” which, in turn, is “detrimental to more vulnerable groups such as minors, young people and gambling addicts.”
Without general regulations issued by the European Union, each member state can freely write its own set of rules. The Belgian decree wishes to keep players better protected against related gambling perils by limiting those forms of advertising that are allowed in the gambling and betting industry while enforcing a series of rules on the content of the ads.
All laws that are sent to the European Commission need to be subject to a standstill period. This allows other member states in the European Union to challenge the text of the decrees and laws provided they feel they would somehow interfere with the free movement of goods, services, and people in the union.
The original standstill period for Belgium’s royal decree on the ban on gambling ads was supposed to end on August 9. However, the government of Malta successfully pushed for this standstill to be extended by one extra month.
Betting Ads Targeted by the Minister of Justice
Vincent Van Quickenborn is Belgium’s Justice Minister. Since May, he has been lobbying for a royal decree that would ban the majority of gambling ads by the end of next year, along with all forms of sports marketing by the end of 2024. The minister equated gambling to smoking and asked for a ban on printed ads, along with radio, TV, and online media ad bans.
Van Quickenborh received his fair share of concern and criticism on behalf of sports betting figures, opposition MPs, and sports leaders, all related to the black market, the future of football clubs, and the fact that the required ban would not be applied to the National Lottery.
In July, the Belgium Gaming Commission announced it would approve a law that would restrict weekly deposit limits to $203.