New Belgian gambling law challenged

RGA and EGBA claim new law is not compliant with EU requirements

Two online gambling trade associations which between them represent most of Europe's major internet gambling firms have combined to fight a proposed new Belgian law which they claim does not comply with European Union requirements.

The Remote Gambling Association (RGA) has partnered with the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) to lodge a joint complaint with the European Commission, alleging that the recently adopted legislation is not compliant with European Union law because it contains elements manifestly designed to protect Belgian operators, thus disadvantaging companies licensed in other EU member nations.

The duo claim that the Belgian regulations put in place 'unacceptable barriers to new entrants seeking to offer online gambling’ because they require applicants for an Internet licence to obtain an offline licence first and actively participate in the land-based market. This stipulation was a ‘clear barrier to entry’ into the Belgian market ‘considering that the majority of the European remote gambling operators do not conduct land-based businesses’ the complaint asserts.

The new laws also require that online operators duplicate infrastructure by locating servers, technical equipment and relevant personnel at a permanent establishment in-country. In doing so, Belgium ‘completely ignores the obligations and safeguards to which foreign operators are already subject in their member state of establishment’.

“In other words, the Belgian authorities assert their capacity to judge the integrity of private operators while they deny the ability of other countries to do so,” a statement alleged.

“If consumer protection was the real concern, licences would be granted on the basis of objective criteria assessing the social responsibility of operators,” said Clive Hawkswood, chief executive officer for the RGA.

“Unfortunately, the current system only aims at protecting a handful of existing land-based operators from meaningful competition. Far from benefitting consumers, this will only serve to reduce the value and choice available to them.”

“There is absolutely no doubt that these measures are driven by protectionism rather than genuine concern for consumers,” he added.

“We hope that the Commission will be consistent with its previous stance on the Belgian laws and will fulfil its duty as guardian of European Union law by taking early action to remedy this abuse.”

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