The Gaming Commission in Belgium has released a long list of banned online casinos. More than just another way to deter players from attempting to spend their money at illegal and unlicensed casinos, the list also came with information around fines that could be handed out.
Are these fines fair or are Belgian officials doing more harm than good by imposing these strict laws?
Banned online casinos in Belgium
Games of chances are legal according to Belgium gambling regulations but only when the operator holds a valid license. The blacklist available on the Commission's website contains the names of every casino that may target Belgium players but doesn't hold a license.
There are a very limited number of online casinos that may offer their services to Belgian players, including Casino of Namen and Casino of Oostende.
As mentioned, there are fines in place for players who attempt to visit and interact with these casinos. There are also fines for operators who accept players from the country. Operator fines can range from €100 to €100,000 and will be multiplied by surcharges.
Possible fines for players
The Gaming Commission website simply states that players may receive fines if taking part in games of chance at blacklisted sites.
These fines can be as little as €26 or as much as €25,000 based on the circumstances of the offence.
You may think these fines are purely used as a scare tactic but in 2015, the Belgian Gaming Commission levied fines against 79 players who placed real-money bets on BetClic Casino. This site is run by BetClic Everest but did not have the necessary license to offer its services in the country.
The fines equalled €200 for each player but there were rumours of larger fines being imposed on players who had spent thousands at the online casino.
What about player protection?
Online regulators around the world tend to take the stance that keeps players safe from illegal operators. The regulators, such as the MGA and the UKGC, will fight for safe gambling and they work to ensure that illegal operators are kept away from potentially at-risk players.
However, Belgium is known for having very strict laws regarding online gambling and while this is not necessarily a bad way to operate, it can have an adverse effect.
The BGC site covers "player protection" but it speaks more to scaring players into staying away from illegal casinos. It's stated by the BGC that playing at unlicensed casinos could lead to "gambling addiction and significant loss of money".
It's for these reasons that there are other responsible gambling measures in place that include exclusion from casinos, whether requested personally or by a third party, as well as a free helpline for gambling addicts.
Driving customers away
While ensuring that players are safe is important, the extremely strict gambling laws in place could push players away from being responsible.
The limited number of casinos on offer may not meet the needs of Belgian customers, which means they'll look to those blacklisted sites (or others) for more entertainment.
A fine may be a good deterrent for some but there will always be those who are willing to take the risk.
Belgium is often perceived as a "nanny state" that refuses to allow citizens to act like adults but instead chooses to hand-hold their every decision.
Considering that Belgium is part of the EU, it's interesting to see that they don't follow the lead of many other EU countries with regards to online gambling laws. Whether this will change in the future remains to be seen. But for now, Belgian players should be aware of the possible fines they could face should they choose to step out of line.