Belgium to Become Second EU Country to Set Gambling Age Limit at 21

  • Operators will also no longer be able to offer free bets, gifts, or bonuses
  • Greece is the only other EU nation with a widespread age requirement of 21
  • Belgium introduced a blanket ban on gambling advertising in July 2023
Cupcake with 2 and 1 birthday candles
Belgium’s minimum age requirement across all forms of gambling will rise from 18 to 21 years old in September. [Image:]

A raft of new measures

Belgium will be just the second European Union (EU) nation to require people to be at least 21 years old to engage in any type of gambling. This change will come into place at the start of September as part of numerous revisions to the country’s Gambling Act.

Anyone who will no longer be old enough to use an online gambling account after the change will receive refunds of their existing wager stakes and account balances.

no longer be able to offer gifts, bonuses, or free bets

Another amendment will prevent operators from advertising games of chance on their platforms. They will also no longer be able to offer gifts, bonuses, or free bets to attract new customers as officials believe that inducements can promote impulsive behavior. Recreational clubs and bars can’t have slot machines and online operators are prohibited from holding multiple gambling licenses for the same website.

Differing opinions

The goal behind these changes is to better protect gamblers in the country and to battle against what lawmakers call “the normalisation and trivialisation of gambling.”

Greece is the only other EU country with a 21 minimum age

The entry age requirement for land-based casinos is already 21 years old following a change in 2018, so sportsbooks, bingo, and arcade facilities will increase their age limits from 18 years old. Greece is the only other EU country with a 21 minimum age requirement for all types of gambling

Those who oppose the new revisions believe that they will just drive more individuals to black market options. The Belgium Association of Gaming Operators (BAGO) thinks that the blanket ban on gambling ads that came into effect in July will lead to people struggling to distinguish legal operators from illegal platforms.

Talking about the latest restrictions, BAGO Chair Tom De Clerq said “We must once again conclude that policymakers ignore the solutions we have proposed and opt for populist formulas.”

Battling against a rise in gambling

The only exception to the advertising ban is that soccer teams have until January 2025 to fulfill existing stadium deals, while all sports-related sponsorships have to end by January 2028. Talking about the need for this heavy-handed approach, Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne said that it was vital to stop the “tsunami of advertising” as these messages can trigger addicts.

Other countries are looking to follow Belgium’s example. Australia’s Communications Minister Michelle Rowland recently met with Belgium’s gambling regulator to discuss the effectiveness of its advertising ban.

Despite the ongoing crackdown, gambling participation rates in Belgium are still growing. The daily average number of gamblers in the country rose to 150,000 in 2023 from 141,000 the previous year, with the former figure being nearly triple the 2018 total. Gross revenue for licensed operators in Belgium reached €1.46bn ($1.6bn) in 2022, an increase of almost 25%.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *