BAGO Takes Aim At Belgian Ad Ban, Separate Player Accounts

March 13, 2023
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The Belgian Association of Gaming Operators (BAGO) has criticised the country’s impending ban on advertising and other planned measures announced in a separate draft law on the same day.

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The Belgian Association of Gaming Operators (BAGO) has criticised the country’s impending ban on advertising and other planned measures announced in a separate draft law on the same day.

On Wednesday (March 8), the Committee on Justice of the Federal Parliament approved MP Stefaan Van Hecke's draft law on gambling and the amendments made to it by the majority party in the current government coalition.

The draft law includes measures to raise the age limit for all forms of gambling to 21, a ban on offering bonuses and a ban on advertising in principle.

Van Hecke said in a press release on March 8 that “this package ensures that we finally have a coherent and consistent policy that focuses on the health and well-being of players, not the profits of the gambling sector”.

BAGO, which says its six current members represent approximately 70 percent of the private gambling sector in Belgium, agrees this law introduces several measures that will effectively contribute to better protection of consumers and vulnerable population groups.

In particular, BAGO told VIXIO GamblingCompliance in a two-page letter that it supported the banning of the so-called 3.3. Machines, which use symbols and dice but are not considered gambling.

However, the group objects to the plan to require players to have several accounts with one operator if they use different products, such as sportsbook and online casino games.

A spokesperson for BAGO said “any form of account splitting will significantly complicate the observation of indicators such as frequency and changes in behaviour”.

Additionally, the trade group said several operators are investing heavily in the use of AI (artificial intelligence) to monitor player behaviour so that they can identify those at risk of harm and provide player interactions.

BAGO has long advocated that the government impose this type of monitoring on all operators and enshrine it in operators’ duty of care.

“This law, however, makes this impossible,” BAGO said.

On the same day (March 8) as the draft law got the green light, minister of justice Vincent Van Quickenborne published the royal decree banning gambling advertising.

BAGO accuses the government of “simply disregarding the well-founded advice of the Belgian Gaming Commission, the industry regulator, regarding advertising”.

The commission has expressed its fears several times in the past year that an advertising ban will strengthen the black market.

BAGO estimates that 30 percent of Belgian players “would be at the mercy of illegal operators” under the ban by 2027.

A spokesperson for the gaming commission said its stance has not changed since its opinion was published on the matter in 2022.

“The common thread in these incomprehensible decisions by the government is the way private operators are put on unequal footing with the National Lottery,” BAGO said.

The National Lottery product Scooore, a sports-betting product, will have to stop advertising. However, all other lottery products will still be able to be advertised.

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