Report: Belgium Ad Ban Has Led to More Illegal Betting

  • The number of people using illegal gambling platforms rose 6% after the ban
  • Any people who use these illegal websites are at risk of prosecution
  • Gaming1 wants to roll back some of the major restrictions that are in place
Person placing a sports bet on a phone
A leading gambling operator in Belgium has highlighted a 6% uptick in people using illegal gambling platforms since a blanket ban on gambling ads came into place. [Image:]

Concerning results

A new report shows an uptick in illegal betting since the Belgian government introduced a blanket ban on gambling-related ads last year. Belgium-based operator Gaming1 emphasized the findings, pointing to the knock-on impact of over-regulation.

6% increase in the number of people using illegal online gambling platforms

Market intelligence firm Nepa conducted a series of surveys last year on the subject, discovering a 6% increase in the number of people using illegal online gambling platforms in the three months after the introduction of the ban and a 4% increase in the number of deposits on these websites.

Gaming1 also showed how people in the country can choose from over 2,210 illegal platforms and that the gross gaming revenue channelization is 73% in favor of black market operators. It claims that the 2023 ad ban “created an illegal operator free-for-all” that has proven to be very lucrative for these companies.

Reasons behind the shift

Gaming1 underlined how people become attracted to illegal platforms due to the easy access, having the ability to bypass the 21-year-old minimum age requirement, and not having to deal with restrictive transaction limits. These platforms do not have the same level of player protection, which means that gambling harm will increase and players will also be subject to prosecution by playing on them.

A survey from the Belgian Gaming Commission (BGC) and market research firm IPSOS saw that of the ten most popular gambling platforms in the country, four are illegal.

The ban on most forms of gambling ads came into place in July following unsuccessful attempts from a group of operators and professional sports teams to legally challenge the decree. The Belgian Association of Gaming Operators (BAGO) at the time said that the government didn’t follow the state gambling regulator’s advice when deciding on the change.

Calling for change

While Gaming1 acknowledged the need to introduce protections to promote responsible gambling, it believes that these efforts went too far in recent years and have led to an increasingly restrictive framework that is often counterproductive.

Some of these big changes, in addition to the advertising ban, were the curtailment of free bets and bonuses in 2020 and the setting of a €200 ($217) weekly deposit limit. The legal age for sports betting is also rising from 18 to 21 years old in September, making it only the second European country to have such a strict minimum requirement.

jeopardizes an industry that provides jobs to about 16,000 people

Gaming1 doesn’t believe that the Belgian government is taking an evidence-based approach to making changes, which jeopardizes an industry that provides jobs to approximately 16,000 people in the country and contributes about €12.17bn ($13.2bn) worth of tax money each year.

Gaming1’s solution is to tailor responsible gambling restrictions to the risk level of a given player. It also called for improved dialogue between regulators and lawmakers to create a sector that is both competitive and sufficiently related.

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