Belgian Gaming Commission recommends new iGaming ad regulation

In the past two years Belgium hit hard online casino services restricting advertisements of gambling products. And now a new report of the Belgian Gaming Commission seems to make things more difficult for the iGaming industry.

The specific government survey showed that gambling advertising during the Jupiler Pro League football championship playoff period was widespread and that fans are exposed to gambling promotion either they buy a match ticket and visit the stadium, either they follow their team through social media.

As stated in the report: “For the Gaming Commission, the link between gambling and sport is problematic because of two reasons: the danger to the integrity of the sport and the risk of gambling addictions. During the Football World Cup in the summer of 2018, the debate about gambling advertising in sports started again.

People with addiction problems indicated on social media that the advertising seduced them. The protection of players is the absolute priority of the Gaming Commission. Such advertising restriction is therefore important to protect players.”

Last year Belgium passed a law that banned TV advertisement of online casino services and gambling products. A law that was in effect since June 2019. Right after the Jupiler Pro League playoffs, which were under study in this new published report. It seems now, that Belgium government seeks to tighten even further the iGaming industry.

The Belgian Gaming Commission report showed in a very vivid way that fans are “literally one click away from gambling” since all teams are linked one way or another to gambling related sponsors. Even the Jupiler Pro League has Unibet as the championship sponsor and is present in every single ticket sold in the country.

Logos of betting sponsors are all over team websites (11 out of 14 teams featured a gambling logo as a shirt sponsor) and their social media channels, while fans receive promotional offers in their mailboxes. Most worrying was the fact that all tickets featured a betting company on the back side and the Jupiler 0% non-alcohol beer, which simply means that even the League itself is promoting gambling and non-alcoholic beer even to minors!

Gambling related ads might be banned during live sporting events, but the report showed that those adds were overrepresented during commercial breaks immediately pre- and post- match broadcast! Betting ads also featured during the post games analysis programs and all over the sport related websites.

BGC proposes new restrictions

So, the BGC proposes is new restrictions on advertising. “This can go from a ban on advertising, a ban on sponsoring sports clubs or product placement, over a point system up to a maximum percentage of the public space that may be taken by such advertising messages. Based on this, the Gaming Commission to elaborate a targeted control and sanction policy.

“Advertising for licensed games of chance must be considered as part of the government’s channelisation plans. But under no circumstances can the sky be the limit. Gambling advertising must be done within a clearly defined framework”

Another study which showed that betting activity increased almost by 30% during the playoff period compared to the regular season, hit the BGC alarm bells. The average total sum wagered per day on regular season matches was €3.34m but this increased to €4.27m per day during the playoffs.

In September 2019, a few months after the TV ad ban was in effect, the Belgian Association of Gaming Operators whose members control almost two-thirds of Belgium’s gambling market, agreed to stop advertising in radio, newspapers, magazines, bus shelters and billboards and urged the government to force the state-run lottery to follow their example as well.

From one side BGC wants to apply more advertising bans, from the other side legal Belgian-licenced operators see that their business is in danger “of being blown away by the illegal sector” as Ardent CEO Emmanuel Mewissen commented.

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