The Gambling Law Review: Belgium

Overview

i Definitions

Most of the definitions are provided for in the Act of 7 May 1999 on games of chance, betting, gaming establishments and the protection of players (the Act), as amended in 20102 and 20193 and implemented by multiple Royal Decrees.

Games of chance are defined as any game by which a stake of any kind is committed, the consequence of which is either loss of the stake by at least one of the players or a gain of any kind in favour of at least one of the players, or organisers of the game and in which chance is a factor, even if only ancillary, for the course of the game, or for determining the winner or his or her gains. It follows from case law from the Council of State that games played in a social network whereby players can pay to receive additional play money are also considered games of chance, even if the player cannot win money in them.4

In line with that case law, the Gaming Commission has issued an opinion in which it explicitly includes certain types of 'loot boxes' in electronic games within the scope of the concept of games of chance. A loot box must be understood as a stand-apart game feature in which it is decided at random what item or upgrade a player receives for his or her game character. It could be something useful, affecting gameplay, such as a more powerful weapon. But it could also be something entirely decorative, such as a new wardrobe. In general, whatever the type of item at stake, there will be items that are considered more valuable (because they are relatively rare) and items that are less valuable (because they are more common). A player who pays for a loot box is considered to engage in gambling under Belgian law. Several game developers/publishers have altered their game offer for the Belgian market following the approach of the Belgian Gaming Commission (most notably by excluding paid loot boxes from the Belgian market).

Certain low-stakes games and low-stakes gaming machines are explicitly exempted from the definition of 'games of chance'. Certain regulations and limitations may nevertheless apply.5

There are specific definitions for 'betting' in general, 'pari-mutuel betting' and 'fixed-odds betting'.

Furthermore, the Belgian Gaming Commission issued a notice explaining that spread betting (without benefiting from a specific definition under the Act or any Royal Decrees) qualifies as betting as outlined above.6

Lotteries are defined in broad terms in Article 301 of the Belgian Penal Code as any operation provided to the public and aimed at providing winnings based solely on chance. It is of note that the definition does not require a stake from the player to be paid, so even a lottery that is free to play can be illegal under Belgian law.

ii Gambling policy

Belgian gambling policy is based on two pillars.

The first pillar is composed of the monopoly regime for public lotteries offered by the state-owned National Lottery operator (with exceptions for charity lotteries and raffles that receive a prior authorisation and are subject to substantial limitations).

The second pillar is based on a general prohibition of all activities that qualify as games of chance under Article 2 of the Act, unless the operator has obtained a licence granted by the Belgian Gaming Commission.7

Belgium carries out a regime of 'controlled expansion'8 in order to attract players towards a safe and regulated gambling market, through the establishment of a lottery monopoly and the granting of a limited number of licences for other games of chance. This holds true both for both land-based and online gambling. The National Lottery is authorised to provide its lottery games online under the National Lottery Act, while any other games of chance may be offered online provided that operators hold the required licences pursuant to the Act.

iii State control and private enterprise

As outlined above, all public lottery games (offline and online) may only be offered by the National Lottery operator, namely, a public undertaking fully owned by the state and subject to the direct control of the government.

The National Lottery operator also holds a licence to offer betting. In this market it competes with a limited number of licensed private operators. The other segments of the gambling markets are covered by private licensed operators.

iv Territorial issues

Games of chance are regulated and licensed at federal level.

The competence granted to municipal authorities is limited to their approval for the establishment and operation of new land based casinos,9 gaming halls10 and – since the amendment of the Act by the Law of 7 May 2019 – also betting shops,11 as well as certain control regarding games exempted from the definition of gambling due to the low stakes and gains,12 within the perimeters granted to these authorities by the Act.

Taxation, however, is a regional matter (decided at the levels of the regions of Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels).

v Offshore gambling

The Belgian Gaming Commission is competent to monitor illegal gambling in Belgium and to take subsequent action.13 It adopts a stringent approach with regard to illegal offshore gambling operators directing their activities to Belgian residents.

The powers of the Gaming Commission are very broad. It can issue warnings against illegal operators but also issue administrative fines.14 In the first instance, however, the Gaming Commission will not act as prosecuting authority but will only note infringements and transfer the file to the public prosecutor. If the latter takes action on the basis of the file handed to him or her, the illegal operator may be subject of criminal prosecution (see Section III.ii). Several international operators have already been sanctioned on that basis.

The Gaming Commission also has in place a mechanism to prevent Belgian residents from accessing illegal (including offshore) gambling websites. This mechanism involves the drafting of a blacklist which is available on the Gaming Commission website. This blacklist includes all websites that, in the Gaming Commission's official opinion, offer gambling to Belgian residents without the required licence. Through a cooperation between the Gaming Commission, the special police IT-crime unit and internet service providers (ISPs),15 the Gaming Commission informs the police of the name and details of the illegal websites; that data is then transferred to the ISPs that will block the access to the website. The website will then become inaccessible to Belgian residents. If they try to access the website a stop-page will be displayed with the different logos of the enforcement authorities stating that the website is no longer accessible because it infringes Belgian law. This system has been contested by a number of remote gambling operators before different courts. Rulings in those cases were unanimously in favour of the government.16

The Gaming Commission has taken action against foreign land-based gambling operators that advertised on Belgian territory for their gambling venues outside of Belgium. These operators were sanctioned but contested the legality of the prohibition to advertise in Belgium. The judge has made a preliminary referral to the CJEU, and the case is currently pending.17

Legal and regulatory framework

i Legislation and jurisprudence

The legal and regulatory framework is essentially built around the two pillars of the gambling policy: one set of rules applies to lotteries and another to games of chance (in the strict sense of the word).

Games of chance are regulated by the Act, which is further implemented by a number of Royal Decrees.18 The regulatory framework is not complete as a number of Royal Decrees are long overdue. Implementing Royal Decrees are often disputed before the Council of State by one or several operators. The Gaming Commission also issues notes in which policy standpoints or other types of clarifications that it deems necessary are communicated.

Lotteries fall outside of the scope of the Act. The National Lottery holds a monopoly for public lotteries, and this is regulated by a specific law as well as a number of Royal Decrees (e.g., with regard to its online activities).19 In addition, each game of the National Lottery is regulated by a dedicated Royal Decree. The National Lottery is also subject to a Management Agreement with the Belgian state.20 Other charity lotteries offered by non-profit organisations are licensed under an old and succinct law.21

ii The regulator

The Belgian lottery and private gambling sector are regulated in different ways.

The sector of games of chance is regulated by the Belgian Gaming Commission, which resides under the Ministry of Justice. The gaming commission is comprised of representatives of various ministers and assisted by a secretariat, which runs the day-to-day activities of control and advises the commissioners. The nomination of certain members in the Gaming Commission is currently being disputed before the Council of State.

The National Lottery operator is supervised by the government through the competent minister (currently a state secretary), who has direct control through two government commissioners. They are competent to assess the compliance of the National Lottery's activities and operation with the applicable laws, its obligations of public service, its bylaws and the management agreement concluded with the Belgian state.22

iii Remote and land-based gambling

Before the entry into force of the act of 10 January 2010 that amended the Act to regulate all types of games of chance, including online gambling, only the National Lottery operator was allowed to offer its games online. At that time, the Belgian Constitutional Court found that the particular situation of the National Lottery company regarding the provision of its activities online was in line with the case law of the CJEU, considering, among other things, the characteristics of the operator and its missions of public service.23

However, with the entry into force of the amended Act in January 2011, games of chance that are allowed under the Act can be offered online, provided that the land-based operator acquires an additional ('plus') licence for its online activities.

In general, all games of chance are subject to certain rules already applicable to their offline equivalent. In addition, specific rules are in place such as a specific solvency ratio of 40 per cent for operators of online gambling under the Royal Decree of 21 June 2011,24 as well as distinct security and technical requirements, and advertising limitations. A Royal Decree of 28 October 2018 regarding conditions for the operation of gambling and betting through information society means imposes restrictions not only regarding advertising but also with respect to financial play limits, online payments and other matters. The Gaming Commission has in addition issued a number of information notes related to online gambling.

iv Land-based gambling

The Act defines four categories of gambling premises (the operation of which is subject to the prior granting of a specific and distinct licence).

Class I venues, or casinos, are subject to the prior granting of an 'A Licence' (duration of 15 years in principle, which is renewable, but potentially shorter if the remaining concession duration for the casino is shorter). The number of casinos is strictly limited to nine by the Act and the municipalities where those casinos may be operated are enumerated in the Act.25

Class II venues, or gaming halls for automatic games of chance, are subject to the granting of a 'B Licence' (duration of nine years, renewable). Their number is strictly limited to 180 by law.

Class III premises refer to pubs and bars, and require a 'C Licence' to operate a maximum of two gaming machines (low-scale gaming machines, e.g., bingo-type gaming machines). The duration of the C Licence is five years, and it is renewable.

Class IV venues are betting shops, the purpose of which is exclusively to engage bets. Betting shops may either be fixed (i.e., a permanent venue) or mobile (i.e., a temporary betting shop operated at the occasion of a specific sporting event, and for its duration only). The operation of betting shops requires an 'F2 Licence' (i.e., a licence that allows the taking of bets on behalf of a betting organiser). F2 Licences have a duration of three years, and are renewable. F2 licensees have the obligation to take bets on behalf of a betting organiser (i.e., an F1 Licence holder). F1 Licences are required to organise betting activities and are granted for periods of 9 years, renewable. The number of betting organisers (F1 Licences) used to be limited to 34 but was further limited to 31.26 In addition, the number of fixed betting shops is limited to 600, and mobile betting shops to 60.27 F2 Licences can also be granted to newspaper and magazine shops, which can then offer betting as an ancillary activity.

v Remote gambling

First, it must be reminded that online public lottery games like land-based lottery games fall under the monopoly of the National Lottery and therefore cannot be offered by any other operator. Second, as regards other games of chance allowed under the Act, a land-based presence is required in order to be allowed to provide games of chance online (through 'information society instruments', to be precise).28 Indeed, only land-based licensees may apply for online gambling licences (namely, the A+ Licence for online casino games, the B+ Licence for online gaming machines and the F1+ Licence for online betting). Online licences only authorise operators to provide via information society means games of the same nature as the games they are allowed to offer based on their land-based licences. The 'plus licences' have the same duration as their related land-based licences.

In addition, Article 43/8 of the Act requires that the servers on which the gambling products are managed are located in a permanent establishment in Belgium. This rule is applied in conformity with EU case law and in practice it is therefore only required that certain data is stored on the Belgian server (for control purposes) and that the gaming website can be taken offline through the Belgian server (for sanctioning purposes).

As mentioned, the Royal Decree of 28 October 2018 regarding conditions for the operation of gambling and betting through information society means introduced additional restrictions on remote gambling and advertising. Notably, it imposes a standard expenditure limit of €500 per week per player (aggregated over all operators). However, the limit may (in theory)29 be raised on specific request of the player, which must be approved by the Gaming Commission before it can be implemented by the operator. This will be refused for players that are listed as having difficulties in paying their debts.

This decree also cracks down on internet payment solutions that allow the funding of a player's e-wallet with a credit card, which was considered a circumvention of the prohibition on using credit cards (directly) for online gambling.

vi Ancillary matters

For the provision, renting, selling, putting at disposal, import and export, production or any services of reparation and maintenance of gambling equipment, a specific licence E is required. This licence is granted by the Gaming Commission for renewable periods of 10 years. Furthermore, certain equipment put on the market or supplied to an authorised operator must also receive a certification from the services of the Gaming Commission or another accredited body.30 Article 27 of the Act strictly prohibits cumulating any operational licences (required to operate e.g., a casino, a gaming hall, or a betting shop) with an E licence, either directly or indirectly (by means of subsidiaries or branches).31

vii Financial payment mechanisms

There is a general prohibition to apply credit for gambling.32 This prohibition also covers the use of credit cards, which is prohibited as a matter of principle in gambling venues and for all online gambling. There is only one exception to this rule, and that is within the confines of a land-based casino (class I gambling establishment). In a judgement of 17 March 2022, following a preliminary referral from the Council of State, it was opined by the Constitutional Court that the general restriction on credit cards for online gambling is lawful.

The above-mentioned Royal Decree of 28 October 2018 regarding conditions for the operation of gambling and betting through information society means further cracks down on internet payment solutions that allow the funding of a player's e-wallet with a credit card. This was considered a circumvention of the prohibition on using credit cards (directly) for online gambling.

Any transaction of €10,000 or above must be done electronically. Cash machines inside gaming establishments are prohibited.33

The licensing process

i Application and renewal

Applications for any type of gambling licence must be submitted with the Gaming Commission through registered mail or, when available, online. Specific forms are made available through applicable Royal Decrees.

The Act sets out certain eligibility criteria as well as information that must be provided in order to obtain a licence. The Gaming Commission tends to interpret general criteria in such a way that it demands rather detailed and specific information.

When one of the licences for which a numerus clausus exists (180 B licences for gaming halls, 31 F1 licences for betting operators, 600 F2 licences for fixed betting shops and 60 F2s for mobile betting shops) becomes available, a transparent, competitive and non-discriminatory award procedure is put in place by the Gaming Commission to allot that licence to all candidates.34 The law sets the (maximum) number of licences of these types, and Royal Decrees further specify how the Gaming Commission must deal with these licences when the maximum number is reached, but a licence becomes available again to be granted to an applicant. However, in practice, the Gaming Commission has made it a policy point to reduce the number of gaming halls and keeps certain licences in a sort of legal twilight zone where they are neither retracted from the original holder, nor put up for a transparent procedure in order to grant a licence to a valid candidate operator. The Gaming Commission states in an official note on its website that it does so with a view to keep gaming halls a commercially viable undertaking.

Concession agreements, the conclusion of which is required to be granted an A licence, are allocated under the rules of service concessions, which requires a transparent, non-discriminatory award procedure in line with Directive 2014/23/EU on the award of concession contracts. This also applies to renewals of concession agreements.

Applicants must also pay a security prior to receiving any licence. The amount of this security can go up to €250,000, depending on the type of licence sought. The operational costs of the Gaming Commission are paid by the operators through an annual licensing fee.35

The Amendment of the Gambling Act of 2019 introduced a new separate F1P licence for offering betting on horse races, which can only be acquired by F1 licence holders (betting operators).

ii Sanctions for non-compliance

Any licensee that breaches the terms of its licence can be subject to sanctions, varying from simple warnings to administrative fines, a prohibition to operate one or more games of chance, suspension or withdrawal of its licence, and even criminal prosecution, which in its turn can lead to fines and prison sentences. Administrative or criminal fines (as well as imprisonment) can also be applied to non-licensees in breach of the law on games of chance. In any case, before issuing an administrative fine or any other sanction of administrative nature, the alleged offender has the right to be heard.

The criminal sanctions applicable to illegal operators also apply to anyone who promotes the illegal operation of gambling activities or who facilitates in any way whatsoever that operation, or who advertises those activities or recruits for those operators, and even to players who participate in illegal gambling activities.36

Breaches of the National Lottery's monopoly also give rise to sanctions under the Criminal Code. There is a general prohibition on the use draw results of National Lottery games for commercial purposes without prior authorisation. This prohibition includes betting on lottery results and also websites or apps that merely provide draw results.

Individuals or directors of companies found guilty of organising illegal lotteries may be sentenced to between eight days' and three months' imprisonment plus a fine of between €400 and €24,000. Any remaining prize money, facilities and materials linked to the illegal lottery game are forfeited to the state. If any real estate property was offered as a prize, it will be seized by the state and the operator will be fined between €800 and €80,000. The distributors, promoters and any person who placed advertisements in any form and by any means whatsoever, may be fined between €400 and €24,000 or sentenced to between eight days' and one month's imprisonment. All remaining lottery tickets would also be seized and destroyed.37

Wrongdoing

The 4th Anti-Money Laundering Directive,38 subjecting all gambling and lottery operators to anti-money-laundering rules, was transposed into Belgian law by the law of 18 September 2017 on the prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing and the limitation of cash (the AML Act). All gambling operators are consequently subject to due diligence obligations as a matter of principle, such as identification of players and final beneficiaries, monitoring of potentially suspicious transactions, etc. The Gaming Commission controls the enforcement of the AML Act, in cooperation with the Belgian Financial Intelligence Processing Unit, police forces and public prosecutors. In line with a report from the Gaming Commission, bars that offer gambling through (legally limited in number and low-stake) gaming machines are exempt from AML obligations as they are considered not to represent a significant risk.

In addition, there are rules in place with a view to detect and report suspicious gambling patterns and identify players in certain situations. Any betting operator must, for instance, register players who place bets for an amount of €1,000 or above. This is mainly intended to fight match-fixing and related wrongdoing.

Match-fixing as such is not a separately defined criminal offence under Belgian law. However, it generally consists of a number of illegal actions and falls within the scope of the provisions sanctioning corruption.39 It is hence subject to criminal sanctions accordingly. The Act prohibits taking part in any game of chance (including betting) where the participant can exert a direct influence on the outcome. In addition, the amendment to the Act through the law of 7 May 2019 introduced the possibility for the Gaming Commission to prohibit betting operators from taking bets on events that would be prone to fraud or of which it cannot be guaranteed that they will be conducted in a fair manner.40

Taxation

Winnings from lotteries or any other games of chance are exempt from taxes.

There is, however, a gaming tax, which is levied by the regional authorities and hence differs (somewhat) depending on which region is competent.41 The applicable tax rates also vary between different types of gambling. This tax is, in principle, levied on the gross gaming revenue (i.e., profits obtained by the operator after deduction of the winnings paid out to players). However, gaming machines are subject to a gambling tax in the form of a fixed amount per machine per year (differing as well per region and type of gaming machine). There is a different tax rate for online gambling.

The National Lottery is obliged to pay a monopoly rent on its public lottery activities, the amount of which is calculated annually and published in a Royal Decree, as well as 'subsidies and special contributions'.

Belgium imposed VAT on online gambling in the course of 2016 (excluding lotteries). The Constitutional Court, however, annulled this legislation in March 2018 as it found that the national legislator had acted outside the scope of its competences.

Advertising and marketing

The abovementioned Royal Decree of 25 October 2018 imposes specific advertising rules for online operators. The rules imposed concern the content of advertising, such as the prohibition on misrepresenting gambling as a potential source of income, or the obligation to add the minimum age to play as well as a warning message (such as 'play with moderation'). It also contains limitations on the amount of publicity, for example, by prohibitions on advertising during live sports broadcasts, 15 minutes before or after children's programmes, or before 8pm (except in the framework of sports programmes), as well as the general rule that there can be a maximum of one gambling advertisement per commercial break.

A number of operators introduced requests for annulment of the Royal Decree of 25 October 2018. The Council of State in February 2020 partially annulled the Royal Decree on two aspects: (1) the possibility for online operators to offer bonuses has been removed entirely so that bonuses for online gambling and betting are considered illegal; and (2) the differing approach between betting and casino games operators was considered discriminatory so that the (more stringent) rules applicable to online casinos and gaming halls were annulled. Where the latter were previously faced with a quasi-complete prohibition on advertising (only on their own website and through direct marketing), they are now, in principle, subject to the same rules as online betting operators. There are more cases still pending with regard to this Decree.

Separately, the Gaming Commission published an official opinion on the application of the Decree, with a view to offering some guidance on how the rules will be applied in practice.

The abovementioned decree does not apply to lottery products from the National Lottery. The latter, however, has in place a code on ethical advertising and, in any case, must advertise for its activities in a responsible manner and with a certain restraint, taking into account its mission of public service as laid down in the Management Agreement between the National Lottery and the Belgian state. In addition, the National Lottery is subject to separate, even more stringent, regulations that restrict its online business (e.g., player spending limits).

The year in review

Following a first judgment by the Constitutional Court42 regarding the law of 7 May 2019 amending the Act, which was issued on 4 March 2021, a second judgment43 on the same law amending the Act was issued on 9 December 2021. Both judgments uphold the amendments to the Act for the most part. However, a special right that was put in place for horse race organisers to authorise betting on horse races in return for a financial compensation was annulled. Although the Court found that, in principle, it makes sense protecting players from fraud and crime by implementing a system that guarantees reliable and professional horse races through financial support, the concept of horse race organisers being put in a position where they can decide who operates horse race betting and who does not was deemed a disproportionate restriction.

2021 also saw a revival of attacks by private operators on anything even remotely linked to the National Lottery, mainly before the Council of State, with, for example, a case against the composition of the Gaming Commission where some members would allegedly be too closely connected to the National Lottery and a case against the management contract between the Belgian state and the National Lottery because it would allegedly grant the National Lottery unfair advantages.

Outlook

Litigation on the Decree of October 2018 has not yet fully ended, although it is not expected that the Council of State will alter the current status quo with regard to online advertising and operational restrictions. And at the same time, political pressure is mounting to take an even more severe stance with respect to gambling advertising. Restrictions (going as far as a full prohibition) on gambling publicity are being debated across various European jurisdictions, and is a favoured approach with some policy makers in Belgium too. However, there is also considerable effort being made to keep restrictions moderate without losing track of player protection.44

Footnotes

1 Philippe Vlaemminck is a partner and Robbe Verbeke is a counsel at Vlaemminck.law.

2 Law of 10 January 2010.

3 Law of 7 May 2019.

4 Judgment 232.752 of the Council of State of 29 October 2015 (Gamepoint). The fact that players can win (unlimited amounts of) play money which gives the opportunity to keep on playing, makes this type of game fall within the ambit of the definition of games of chance, read together with the exclusions provided in Article 3 of the Act.

5 Additional rules were created through an amendment of the Act by the Law of 7 May 2019. Objections were raised through an appeal before the Constitutional Court, but the latter rejected the claim to annul the amendments by rulings of 4 March 2021 and 9 December 2021.

6 Note of the Belgian Gaming Commission of 12 November 2014 on spread betting, available on the website of the Belgian Gaming Commission.

7 Article 4 of the Act.

8 See CJEU, judgment of 6 March 2007, Placanica, C-338/04, 359/04 and 360/04, EU:C:2006:324, paragraphs 55 and 57.

9 A concession agreement must be concluded with the municipality in which the casino premises will be operated (Article 31 of the Act).

10 The operation of gaming halls must be performed based on the agreement to be entered into, at the own discretion of the authorities, between the operator and the municipal authorities of the territory in which the gaming halls will be operated (Article 34 of the Act).

11 Similar (but not identical) provisions to those for gaming halls regarding an agreement with the municipal authorities were introduced for betting shops in Article 43/4, §1 of the Act by law of 7 May 2019 amending the Act.

12 Article 3, third indent of the Act as amended in 2019.

13 Article 20 of the Act.

14 Article 15/2 and article 15/3 of the Act.

15 ISPs committed to cooperating voluntarily through the conclusion of an agreement – the majority of ISPs are parties to this agreement.

16 See judgment of the President of the Court of Commerce of Brussels (Flemish Chamber) of 13 June 2012 (Bwin case), and judgment of the Civil Court of First instance of Brussels (Flemish Chamber) of 11 February 2013 (Bet-at-Home case). See also judgment 232.752 of the Council of State of 29 October 2015 (Gamepoint).

17 Request for a preliminary ruling from the Nederlandstalige rechtbank van eerste aanleg Brussel (Belgium) lodged on 19 November 2021 – Recreatieprojecten Zeeland BV, Casino Admiral Zeeland BV, Supergame BV v Belgische Staat (case C-695/21).

18 The law and its underlying policy were contested before the Constitutional Court, which decided in 2011 that the Belgian gambling regime based on controlled expansion is effectively pursuing consumer protection objectives, and that this regime is compliant with the case law of the CJEU. See Constitutional Court, judgment of 14 July 2011, case No. 128/2011.

19 Law of 19 April 2002 on the rationalisation, functioning and management of the National Lottery.

20 Latest version as agreed by Royal Decree of 13 September 2021. The Management Agreement is however disputed before the Council of State – case pending.

21 Law of 31 December 1851 on lotteries.

22 Chapter V of the National Lottery Act.

23 Constitutional Court, judgment of 10 March 2004, No. 33/2004.

24 Royal Decree of 21 June 2011 regarding qualitative conditions to be fulfilled by additional licence applicants. This ratio enables the Gaming Commission to ensure the applicant/operator does benefit from sufficient financial means to guarantee the payment of winnings to players, and differs from one type of game to another.

25 Article 29 of the Act.

26 By Royal Decree, retroactively applicable as of 1 January 2020, amending Royal Decree of 22 December 2010 regarding the maximum number of betting operators and the procedure to treat licence applications where a licence is released following withdrawal or cessation of activities.

27 Article 1 of Royal Decree of 22 December 2010 setting the maximum number of fixed and mobile betting shops, the criteria aimed at ensuring a spread of those venues, and the treatment procedures for applications when a licence is released due to a withdrawal or a cease of activities.

28 This includes most notably internet (via PC, smartphone or tablet), but other distribution channels are possible.

29 For practical reasons this is not (yet) possible, and the Gaming Commission in principle imposes a fixed €500 per week spending limit per operator. A system to track and link individual player spending over the different licence holders appears to be under construction. This would make it possible to actually enforce the spending limit, and also to raise it as is foreseen by the regulations.

30 Article 52 of the Act.

31 In practice, the Gaming Commission usually accepts such a double possession when a gambling licensee also holds an E Licence via one of its subsidiaries, provided that a certain threshold relating to the shares held by the gambling licensee within that subsidiary is not met.

32 Article 58 of the Act.

33 Article 58 of the Act.

34 Royal Decree of 22 December 2010 setting the maximum number of betting operators and the procedure for applications when a licence is released due to a withdrawal or cessation of activities; Royal Decree of 22 December 2010 setting the maximum number of fixed and mobile betting shops, the criteria aimed at ensuring a spread of those venues, and the treatment procedures for applications when a licence is released due to a withdrawal or a cessation of activities; and Royal decree of 24 April 2014 regarding the publication, application, and granting of a licence B for the operation of a gaming establishment class II when a licence is released.

35 For the amounts, see Royal Decree of 20 December 2016 on the contribution to the functioning, personnel and organisational costs of the Gaming Commission due by holders of licences A, A+, B, B+, C, E, F1, F1+, F2, G1 and G2 for the civil year 2017.

36 Article 4 of the Act.

37 Articles 302 and 303 of the Belgian Criminal Code.

38 Directive (EU) 2015/849 of 20 May 2015 on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purposes of money laundering or terrorist financing, amending Regulation (EU) No. 648/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council, and repealing Directive 2005/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council and Commission Directive 2006/70/EC.

39 Articles 246, 504 bis and 504 ter of the Criminal Code.

40 The possibility for the Gaming Commission to ban certain betting was contested before the Constitutional Court but to no avail (judgment 177/2021 of 9 December 2021). It can be considered to be in line with the Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions (the Macolin Convention).

41 For information, Belgium is divided into three economic regions, namely, the Flemish Region, the Walloon Region and the Region of Brussels-Capital.

42 Judgment of the Constitutional Court No. 36/2021 of 4 March 2021. The only thing that the Court considered contrary to the Constitution is that under the (amended) Act the Gaming Commission cannot impose administrative sanctions with suspended effect, whereas this is possible for the same sanctions in the context of criminal proceedings.

43 Judgment of the Constitutional Court No. 177/2021 of 9 December 2021.

44 For instance, the Pro League, association of professional football clubs, has entered into an agreement with the Gaming Commission with regard to sponsoring by gambling operators. Football clubs self-impose adherence to limitations on gambling publicity. Sponsoring by gambling operators is important for professional sports.

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