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Belgium regulators have made new amendments to the gambling laws in the country with the legal gambling age from 18 to 21. This move aims to align the age requirements for sports betting, arcades and bingo with those already in place for land-based casinos. The revised regulations are set to come into effect on September 1, 2024, and have been outlined in a press release by the Gaming Commission, as published in the Belgium Official Gazette.

The decision to increase the legal gambling age in Belgium is part of a broader effort to prioritise player safety and well-being. By raising the age limit, the authorities aim to provide a more secure environment for individuals engaging in gambling activities. The new legislation includes several other measures designed to safeguard players and ensure responsible gambling practices:

  • Prohibition of Devices “3.3”: The revised regulations include a ban on the use of specific gambling devices, known as “3.3” devices. This prohibition aims to eliminate potential risks associated with these devices and promote safer gambling experiences.
  • Ban on Cumulation of Online Licences: The new laws also prohibit the cumulation of online licenses on the same website. This measure seeks to prevent operators from exploiting multiple licenses to maximise their reach and potentially exploit vulnerable players.
  • Ban on Gifts/Bonuses/Free Games: Another noteworthy provision is the ban on offering gifts, bonuses, or free games to players. This restriction aims to minimise the potential for excessive gambling and the associated risks it may pose to vulnerable individuals.
  • Ban on Advertising Games of Chance: The revised regulations also introduce a ban in principle on advertising games of chance. This change intends to reduce the exposure of individuals to gambling advertisements, particularly targeting vulnerable populations, such as minors and problem gamblers.
  • Age Limit of 21 Years and Refund in Case of No Control: To ensure effective age verification and compliance with the new regulations, individuals who fail to provide proof of age will be eligible for refunds. This provision emphasises the importance of age control measures and strengthens the responsibility of operators in verifying the age of their customers.
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The raised legal gambling age in Belgium will have implications for both operators and players within the country’s gambling industry. For operators, it means implementing necessary changes to comply with the new regulations and adapt their marketing strategies to adhere to the ban on advertising games of chance. Additionally, operators will need to ensure strict age verification processes to prevent minors from accessing gambling services.

Players, particularly those between the ages of 18 and 21, will be directly affected by the increase in the legal gambling age. Those who were previously eligible to participate in certain gambling activities may now need to wait until they reach the age of 21. However, it is essential for players to understand that this change is intended to protect them from any potential harm associated with underage gambling. Responsible gambling practices and adherence to legal age limits are crucial for maintaining a safe and enjoyable gambling environment.

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While the decision to raise the legal gambling age has been made with the best intentions, there are concerns and criticisms regarding certain aspects of the revised regulations. One notable concern is the potential for the new advertising restrictions to inadvertently benefit illegal operators. The Belgium Association of Gaming Operators (BAGO) has expressed opposition to a total ban on gambling advertising, arguing that it could make it more challenging for consumers to differentiate between legal and illegal operators.

Tom De Clercq, Chair of BAGO, emphasises the need for targeted advertising limitations rather than a blanket ban. BAGO advocates for limiting advertising, particularly through traditional media, but warns against the potential negative consequences of a total ban. They believe that a comprehensive approach that combines responsible advertising practices and effective regulation is key to maintaining a healthy and well-regulated gambling industry.

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