Initially, the Belgian Gaming Commission banned all games of chance at online gambling sites, under the Gambling Act of 7 May 1999, however it recognised how this merely opened the door to unregulated gambling and amended it with the Act of January 2010 which allowed it to channel online gambling through approved and regulated channels by means of licencing.
In a landmark move to protect children from the abusive nature of the loot boxes so aggressively marketed by many gaming companies such as Electronic Arts, Activision Blizzard, Loot Crate, Valve and 2K the Commission banned them and refused to allow games such as FIFA to be sold in Belgium unless drastic changes were made to the monetisation system.
"It was reported in January 2019 that EA and others had capitulated to Belgium’s demands and removed loot boxes from their games in the territory."
The Commission has taken a hard line when it comes to playing poker for real money in Belgium. By their definition of gambling on a game of chance (there are stakes, win/loss possibilities and an element of chance) poker for money is a game of chance, not skill. This is due to the cards being dealt at random (chance), the possibility of winning or losing money (win/loss) and the need to place a wager, to begin with (the stake). They also include the indirect costs as a potential “stake” this includes paying for an item such as a cap or shirt and getting access to a game, as well as exponentially more expensive drinks. This essentially cancels the possibility of running a poker tournament.
On 1st of June 2019, the Gambling Commission took a stand on potentially harmful gambling practices and put a limit on the amount players could deposit at online casinos each. The limit of €500 each week was set in place. This amount could not be changed unless the casinos can verify whether or not the player is registered on the National Bank’s list of defaulters. If this can be verified, casinos are able to lift the weekly cap.
Casino welcome bonuses are also limited to only €275 for new players. This was decided to make gamblers less likely to make massive deposits when creating a new account. Reload bonuses, free spins and other regular online casino promotions are banned by the Gaming Commission. However, most gambling sites in Belgium offer loyalty and gamification systems to exchange points for cash vouchers and other perks.
Restrictions on Gambling with Credit Cards and eWallets
Players who are hoping to fund their casino accounts by using their credit cards can no longer do so at Belgium casinos. It is also prohibited to fund an eWallet like Skrill and Neteller with a credit card and use that eWallet at an online casino.
The responsibility for ensuring that this doesn’t happen falls on the casinos. Most regulated online casinos can no longer feature eWallet companies such as Skrill or Neteller to ensure that players are unable to make deposits using their credit cards and what is essentially borrowed cash.
The Commission ensures the mental, personal, data and financial safety of its residents. This also includes protecting minors from gambling and activities, which may lead to gambling addiction later in life.
As discussed, the Commission took a decisive stand on loot boxes as gambling for two reasons. It was taking advantage of minors and their lack of fiscal understanding, and it promoted openness to making financial decisions with risk elements, which was deemed to normalise gambling behaviour. This normalisation at a young age was considered to enhance compulsive gambling behaviours actively.
The Commission also manages a list of approved online casinos and a list of blacklisted casinos – which is available on their official website. This is no mere barking dog; this list has teeth as the Commission informs both the local authorities digital crimes department and the state ISP’s. These sites are blocked from access within Belgium and placed on a digital watch list.
Players engaging in illegal gambling face fines ranging from €26 to €25,000. If a minor is involved of the player is a repeat offender fines will be set and then doubled. Operators providing unlicensed gambling to Belgian players will face fines of up to €100,000.
The Commission’s foremost directive is the protection of local gamblers, and as such, they hold the applicants for gambling licences to the highest possible standards. There is a stringent review process that includes looking at past financial behaviour, the details of both shareholders and key staffing in the proposed organisation, the games to be offered and their compliance with local rulings on games of chance and more. Here are some of the items under review:
- Proof of residence or incorporation in an EU member state
- Proof of financial solvency and zero debt
- Shareholder plan and criminal records of all shareholders
Player Related Policies
- Advertising Policies and plans
- Responsible Gaming initiatives
- In-depth website structure and map
- Server location
- List of casino games and their internal rule settings
Data Protection & Security
- Security measures to protect the site from hackers and breaches
- SSL and other technical protective measures
- Payment gateway security protocols
Before an application is considered, the Commission may require the applicant to provide security in the amount of up to €250,000 based on the licence application in question.
Benefits for Players Playing at Legal Gambling Sites in Belgium
As they have proven, the Commission is focused on the security and well-being of the player above all else. This allows Belgian gamblers to transact at any approved online casino with the peace of mind that they are in safe hands and will have the backing of the Commission in dealing with any unforeseen issues.
The Commission has ensured that each province has its selection of helpful organisations ready to aid gamblers who find themselves struggling with compulsive behaviour. In addition to the trained professionals on hand to assist at these venues, there are also various forms of gambling exclusion available in Belgium, including voluntary self-exclusion, intervention by an interested third party and more. Information on this and more are readily available at GokHulp.be their official problem gambling website.
Top Online Casinos Regulated by the Belgian Gaming Commission
When it comes to reviewing approved online casinos in Belgium, you know, they will be the very best of the best given the Commission’s intensive process. Here are three of the approved online gambling sites which hold the Belgian A+ Licence:
Casino777.be – A slick game focused casino, Casino777 is available in German, French, Dutch and English and offers world-class localised support around the clock! They proudly share their annual payout rate, which sat at an astonishing 98.3% for last year! They are also the online casino partners of Casino de Spa which was founded in 1763!
Unibet.be – Unibet is a globally recognised brand who only offer their services in Belgium in either German or French. They have received the top licencing approval, which allows them to provide online casinos, online betting and even online poker in this region.
GoldenPalace.be – GoldenPalace offer superb online casino entertainment, live dealer gambling, dice games and sports betting in English, French and Dutch. Enjoy their selection of games from top game providers like Netent, Quickspin, Elk Studios, Thunderkick and many more.
While the Belgian Gaming Commission is seen as one of the toughest in the industry, their decisiveness and willingness to take action, as seen with loot boxes, is refreshing. As a gambler under their jurisdiction, one can gamble with complete trust in the protection that this authority offers.