Belgium Raises Minimum Gambling Age to 21


In a significant move aimed at enhancing the regulation of gambling activities and protecting younger and vulnerable players, Belgium is set to implement stringent new regulations with amendments to the 1999 Gambling Act. These include raising the minimum gambling age from 18 to 21 across all forms of gambling, including Bitcoin casinos online and land-based casinos. This change will come into effect on 1 September 2024.

Belgium has already got an age limit of 21 for land-based arcades and gambling establishments, and this restriction will now encompass all forms of gaming, including both physical and online platforms. Greece is the only other EU country that mandates a minimum age of 21 for participation in physical and internet betting.

In addition, Belgium has enforced a prohibition on betting advertisements since July of last year. Beginning in September, regulated operators will also be restricted from promoting online gambling on websites offering sports betting, bingo, or poker and providing free wagers or bonuses as incentives. Furthermore, a comprehensive ban on betting advertisements at football stadiums is slated to take effect on January 1, 2025.

New Obligations for Land-Based Operators

Operators of class one, two, and four gambling venues must now maintain a professional register. This register must list individuals who access gaming rooms for professional reasons without being checked against the exclusion register, EPIS. This measure aims to ensure that only authorized personnel are involved in gambling operations.

The updated regulations empower police and Gambling Commission liaison officers to request access to the professional register and camera surveillance footage from gambling venues. This is to increase transparency and accountability within the gambling industry.

It is not quite clear if this is also going to be implemented at online casinos, however, the casino logs will record all player activity so it shouldn’t be too difficult.

Mandatory Annual Meetings

Another significant change is the introduction of mandatory annual meetings between the Belgian Gaming Commission and representatives of license holders. These meetings will facilitate ongoing dialogue and ensure that all stakeholders are up-to-date with the latest regulatory requirements and best practices.

Future Measures and ID Verification

Some measures will come into force at a later date. These include a requirement for newsagents to check the EPIS before allowing customers to gamble. And the introduction of penalties for individuals who use another person’s ID to gamble. This will also apply to those who lend their IDs and any operators that accept such fraudulent transactions.

Opposition from the Belgian Association of Gambling Operators (BAGO)

The Belgian Association of Gambling Operators (BAGO) has voiced strong opposition to the new measures. Chair Tom De Clercq stated:

The Belgian Association of Gambling Operators (BAGO) has repeatedly advocated for limiting advertising, including through traditional media. However, BAGO has consistently warned that a total ban on advertising in areas where illegal operators are prevalent, especially online, will have serious side effects. BAGO asserts that policymakers continue to ignore their proposed solutions, opting instead for populist measures.

Implications for the Gambling Industry

The new regulations represent a significant shift for Belgium’s gambling industry. Operators will need to adapt to stricter age verification processes and comply with new record-keeping and surveillance requirements. The advertising ban, in particular, could impact marketing strategies and customer acquisition efforts.

Ensuring Compliance and Protecting Players

The primary goal of these changes is to protect players. Especially younger and more vulnerable individuals, from the potential harms of gambling. By raising the minimum age and enhancing oversight, Belgium aims to create a safer and more responsible gambling environment.

Belgium’s updated gambling regulations mark a significant step towards enhanced player protection and industry accountability. While these changes present challenges for operators, they are crucial for fostering a safer gambling environment. As Belgium joins other European nations in tightening gambling laws, the focus remains on safeguarding public health and ensuring responsible gambling practices.

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