Opposition Grows To Belgian Advertising Ban

March 29, 2023
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Opposition to a planned Belgian ban on gambling advertising is rising, with media groups joining the country’s major sports organisations in speaking out against the ban due to take effect on July 1.

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Opposition to a planned Belgian ban on gambling advertising is rising, with media groups joining the country’s major sports organisations in speaking out against the ban due to take effect on July 1.

The planned ban “completely defeats the purpose of tackling gambling addiction” wrote the Belgian Federation of Audiovisual Media (VLA), Flemish Newsmedia and LaPresse, which represents French and German-language media.

"The real problem lies in the tsunami of illegal providers and providers who do not respect the rules against gambling addiction”, the media groups said in a joint statement. “This gambling mafia must be tackled, but not by denying legal providers the opportunity to advertise."

The groups are proposing a self-regulatory advertising model to be developed under the supervision of the Belgian Gaming Commission.

The statement follows Belgian major sporting organisations’ announcement last week that they planned a court challenge to the ban, making a similar argument about a boost to the black market.

Representatives of cycling, basketball, football and major sporting events said they favoured stricter measures such as a ban on personalised advertising and the use of sports stars in ads.

But a total ban “undeniably weakens the Belgian sporting sector”, the groups said.

The media groups claim that the ban, spearheaded by justice minister Vincent Van Quickenborne, is due to take effect without proper consultation, even with the regulator.

A self-regulatory regime would include limits on volume, content and time of broadcasting of advertising, and every ad would include addiction warning messages, the groups said.

The Gaming Commission has stated a view that a ban is “not a good solution”, as it prefers less drastic steps, such as a ban on personalised advertising and on advertising in public places including train stations.

But an addictions expert claimed the sporting organisations were making an “invalid” argument.

“It has long been shown that advertising increases gambling,” said Katleen Peleman of VAD, an Antwerp-based drug and alcohol clinic. “It's an embarrassing charge.”

The claim that an ad ban would drive players to the black market is “not entirely unfounded”, she told Het Nieuwsblad.

But that is why advertising on social media and search engines is still allowed, so consumers can find opportunities to gamble if they wish, she said.

Last week, Van Quickenborne said the ad ban was a “necessary measure to protect vulnerable individuals and their families from the devastating effects of gambling advertising. We cannot accept that people are trying to keep it with all their might.”

In the Netherlands, a proposed ban on untargeted advertising, which would include newspapers, TV, billboards and radio, is scheduled to take effect on July 1.

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