Belgium has published a royal decree severely restricting gambling advertising, despite the regulator’s fear that it will increase black market activity.
Restrictions proposed in the decree come into effect from July 1, 2023.
The decree was signed by the King and published in the Belgian Official Gazette on March 8.
The permitted forms of advertising under the royal decree are severely limited. For instance, the “occasional advertising in the context of reporting sports competitions and events is permitted”.
Licence holders can broadcast sports sponsorship messages by means of their brand name or their logo, or both, for international and European sports competitions, as well as Belgian sports competitions.
However, the message can not exceed five seconds, the maximum number of sports sponsorship messages is two per hour and the message must be broadcast during the period of 15 minutes before the start or end of the live broadcast of a match.
Sponsorships of sports clubs will also be severely restricted after a transition period, in order for teams to honour their existing contracts.
From January 1, 2025, gambling advertising will be prohibited in stadiums.
Additionally, one exemption is allowed until December 31, 2027; a logo without a slogan can appear on a shirt, as long as it does not exceed 75 square centimetres and is not on the front of the shirt.
“The tax rules will be tightened since such sponsorship expenses will no longer be deductible for the gambling companies,” according to the Ministry of Justice's press release on March 8.
The decree applies partially to the National Lottery, but only with regard to the games of chance that it offers in its capacity as holder of a Class F1 sports-betting licence.
Deputy prime minister and minister of justice Vincent Van Quickenborne said the “strict rules will have an immediate impact”.
“A transition period is provided for the sports sector so that the sector can adapt to the new reality. That was also achieved with the ban on tobacco advertising at the time,” he said.
In May 2022, Van Quickenborne said he was “done with gambling advertising” when the country notified the European Commission of its draft royal decree to severely restrict gambling advertising.
The Belgian Gaming Commission has expressed its fears several times in the past year that an advertising ban will strengthen the black market.
A spokesperson for the gaming commission said its stance has not changed since its opinion was published on the matter in 2022.
“Unfortunately, the gaming commission was not involved in determining the content of the new royal decree,” the spokesperson told VIXIO GamblingCompliance.
Additionally, at the time of writing, the regulator had not had enough time to analyse the decree, adding that it is “too early for us to comment on its possible impact at this stage”.