Belgian Justice Minister Pushes Total Ban on Gambling Ads

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Belgian Justice Minister, Vincent Van Quickenborn is pushing his government to enact a total ban on gambling advertisements in the country. But his logic, and a major exception for the government-run national lottery, have given critics plenty of ammo to blast the plan.

Under Van Quickenborn’s plan, virtually all gambling advertising, and sponsorship of sporting events and teams, would be completely eliminated by 2024. But the words “virtually all” are doing a lot of heavy lifting in that statement as the Justice Minister’s proposal would not apply to the national lottery.

Critics of the plan, including the local operator association Bago, called out the hypocrisy of the plan – pointing out that 40 percent of the country’s total gambling advertising comes from the national lottery. “Studies show, however, that no game of chance is without risk and that, for example, scratch games carry a risk similar to that of sports betting,” Bago said. “One can therefore wonder whether the government is really taking a decision here in which concern for the consumer is central,” a spokesperson for the organization said.

Bago also points out that decreased visibility of regulated operators will only increase the flow of players to black market sites – where help for problem gambling is non-existent. “Today, more and more legal operators are deploying algorithms and artificial intelligence to quickly identify emerging problematic gambling behaviours and offer solutions to players, including advising them to register on the EPIS (self-exclusion) list,” Bago President Tom De Clercq said in a statement reported on by iGamingBusiness.com.

But Minister Van Quickenborn has either never heard these arguments, or simply chooses to ignore them in the hopes of scoring an easy political victory and is standing by idea. “Gaming advertising is fired at us every day and encourages these addictions, including among young people. More than 100,000 gamblers are prone to gambling addiction and a third of them are seriously addicted.”

Should the ban go through, Belgium will join the UK, and other western countries, in enacting strict, post-covid advertising bans on gambling operators.