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Betting in Belgium

Published on: 30/11/2015

Belgium may the home of the standard-setting European Union but the country is not proving itself as an ideal role-model when it comes to the field of gaming regulations. As of 2010, Belgium has increasingly become less flexible regarding its gambling rules and this in turn is causing tensions with gambling’s governing bodies. However, this was not always the case and Belgium’s previously-liberal attitudes to gambling can be traced back to the 14th and 15th centuries when instances of card gaming and lotteries were first recorded.

After the Second World War, Belgium tolerated numerous forms of wagering, including casinos and horse racing. This culminated in more than 20 gambling establishments being created, many of which are still open to this day. Such venues can be found in every major city in the country.

The two main racetracks (hippodromes) located in Waregem and Mons-Ghlin are renowned venues for both thoroughbred and Harness racing. Punters can place bets with specialised online bookies or at the trackside. Gambling at any venue in Belgium is only permitted for punters aged 21 or over.

In 1934, an up to date national lottery was initialised. In 2002, lottery games controlled by the government became available via the internet after the National Lottery Act was amended. Some of the many popular lottery games include Euro Millions, instant-win scratch cards, Keno and Joker.

Belgium’s legalised sports gambling scene has a huge following. Many bookies have been in operation for years, however, despite numerous attempts to control them, not all of the establishments are authorised.

Bookies, including ones from abroad are permitted to trade for the majority of football games and other popular sporting events. This leniency has paved the way for well-known London bookies such as Ladbrokes who have opened more than 400 gambling establishments in the country.

Gambling via Belgian-based websites in the country is completely within the law. However, changes made to the gambling regulations by the Belgian government in 2010, prohibit foreign gambling companies from offering online betting services in Belgium. However, companies with existing trade licenses such as Ladbrokes are permitted to offer online facilities to Belgian punters.

The law in Belgium prohibits the promotion of any services related to the unlicensed gambling trade. Foreign Betting companies that are found to be providing gambling websites in the country may receive harsh penalties or even face arrest. As a consequence, the Remote Gambling Association (RGA), Telebet and Betfair challenged the legislation via the courts, but their case was ultimately rejected.

As things stand, foreign companies must initially apply for a betting shop licence and then have servers physically based in the nation in order to set up any gambling trade in Belgium. Once these criteria have been fulfilled, the company could then trade under the authority of the Belgium Gaming Commission. Surprisingly, the Belgian laws does not the affect residents of the nation who are able to place online bets with gambling companies based in other countries worldwide. As a result, more than 400 gambling web sites accept wagers from punters native to Belgium.