A week after issuing its first A+ gaming license to PokerStars, Belgian authorities are moving to crack down on unlicensed gaming sites. The move is the latest in a series of twists and turns that have paved the way towards gaming liberalization in the small country.
The government’s main tool in enforcing gaming laws in Belgium is a black list of companies whose domains will be blocked by Belgian ISP’s. Blocking a domain name isn’t necessarily a foolproof method for stopping illegal gambling, but it does send a strong message to potential scofflaws.
Among the blacklisted companies were some of the big dogs in the iGaming industry including 888 and Everest. Many of the blocked URLs have the .be suffix and had been operating openly, and illegally in Belgium for quite some time.
Blacklisted sites that agree to bar Belgian players can be removed from the list. Once their off the list and back in the good graces of Belgian authorities, the former renegades can begin the process of applying for an official license.
To put some teeth into the new gaming laws, Belgian lawmakers have also attached some pretty hefty fines for site operators and players. Anyone running an illegal gambling site in Belgium or serving Belgian players faces fines of up to €100,000 ($132,00 USD).
Playing on one of the blacklisted sites can earn Belgian citizens a hefty €25,000 ($33,00 USD) fine and a visit from local law enforcement. Citizens are expected to check the blacklist themselves to determine whether the sites they’re playing on are approved to not.
Changing European Scene
Belgium is just one of many European countries that have fought online gaming tooth and nail. Like Germany, Spain and a laundry list of other European Union (EU) countries, the Belgian government was desperate to hang on to lucrative gaming monopolies they’ve enjoyed for decades.
But EU regulators have steadily turned the tide on nearly every attempt to restrict market access for international iGaming firms. (With Sweden being the notable exception.)
Are you planning any marketing efforts aimed at converting Belgian players? Let us know on our Online Gambling Laws & Regulation Forum.