Recent excavations in Belgium have revealed evidence of gambling that likely dates back to the 1300s. Having the EU’s headquarters there makes for an intriguing country, but how does that factor into Belgium’s gaming regulations? Keep reading to find out the ins and outs of the gambling laws in Belgium.
Casino Games and Their Regulatory Status
Gambling has been legal in Belgium since 1851, although the country’s primary gambling law, the Gambling Act, did not go into effect until 1999. Before 2011, online gambling in Belgium was illegal.
Most forms of gaming are lawful in Belgium so long as they are licensed, and the law around gambling is quite simple. There are, however, a few restrictions. Let’s look at the gambling laws in Belgium in detail.
Land-based casinos in Belgium are permitted to offer gaming services to residents and visitors so long as they obtain a valid A license from the Belgian Gaming Commission. The maximum number of licenses that can be issued at this time is nine, and those have all already been distributed. Thus, basic casino games like Blackjack, Roulette, Baccarat, Poker, and slot machines can be found in any of Belgium’s nine brick-and-mortar casinos.
In addition, a B license is needed to run any of the country’s estimated 180 amusement arcades (also known as slot halls).
Online gambling at licensed casinos is permitted in Belgium. Online casinos in Belgium are only available to residents if their operators are legally allowed to conduct business there. New operators have a hard time breaking in because of the scarcity of land-based casino licenses. Some companies have discovered a workaround by forming partnerships with established brick-and-mortar casinos.
Those who provide gambling services to Belgians without a license face hefty fines, and the government has ordered ISPs to ban those sites and prevent Belgians from accessing them. Bettors who use unregulated sites risk financial penalties as well.
The majority of live poker games in Belgium take place in sanctioned casinos where the game is allowed. However, the law restricts the amount of live poker tournaments that can be held in the country annually.
Similarly, only officially sanctioned internet casinos may host online poker games. A physical presence in the country is required of operators once again. ISPs in Belgium will immediately block and punish users who access poker gambling sites that are not properly licensed to do so. Many Belgian poker players still find ways around the ban by going to offshore sites that haven’t been prohibited.
Although both offline and online bingo are permitted in Belgium, there are only two of the nine casinos in the country that actually provide bingo games. Similar to the situations with poker and casino games, bingo operators need to obtain a license. But none of the 9 active licensees offer an online bingo service.
The few Belgians who enjoy bingo can still do so through unregulated bingo sites, provided they haven’t been blacklisted by the country’s Internet service provider.
Gambling on lotteries is permitted in Belgium, although the monopoly-controlled Belgian National Lottery (Loterie National Belgique) is the only provider. Similarly, the Belgian National Lottery website is the only place in the country where you may legally play online lottery games for real money.
Despite this, there are a plethora of illegitimate online lottery sites that welcome players from Belgium, with players’ access varying widely due to blacklisting and banning by ISPs.
Gambling on social media, loot boxes, simulated sports, and cryptocurrency games
The gambling laws of Belgium make no mention of social casinos. In 2018, however, the sale of loot boxes was rendered unlawful and restricted to licensed businesses. Because loot boxes are typically sold for money (free loot boxes are not considered gambling), they have been labeled as a kind of gambling. Given this, it is reasonable to conclude that the opportunity to buy play chips at social casinos constitutes yet another form of gambling.
Since virtual sports betting is treated as a game of chance, similar to slots, it does not require a license like traditional sports betting does in Belgium. As a result, providing virtual sports will necessitate an A or B license as of 2019.
Since cryptocurrencies are not recognized as legal tender in Belgium, regulated land-based or online gambling companies cannot accept them. This effectively makes crypto gambling illegal in Belgium. Despite this, players still have an easy time getting to crypto casinos run by offshore companies.
Betting Regulations in Belgium
Both land-based and virtual bookmakers need a valid license to offer sports betting in Belgium. In Belgium, where hundreds of bookmakers operate, football betting is by far the most common. The Belgian national lottery, LOTTO, operates SCOOORE, the country’s largest online bookmaker.
Bets on fantasy sports are also permitted in Belgium, albeit a valid license is required.
Maximum Gambling Age Set at 21
Residents of Belgium who want to bet legally must be at least 18 years old. The legal gambling age in the United States is 21. There are now 9 land-based casinos with this license.
There is a 15% tax on gaming profits for businesses that cater to Belgians. Wallonia is a special case because businesses operating there pay only 11% tax.
Players can keep all of their gains from gambling in Belgium because to the country’s lenient tax laws.
The Development of Belgium’s Gambling Laws
Recent excavations in the area now known as Belgium have uncovered evidence of gambling dating back to the 1300s. There is evidence of lottery play in the country as early as the 15th century. The Lotteries Act of 1851 was the first piece of legislation to handle gambling in Belgium since the country gained its independence from the Netherlands in 1830.
Due to a rise in illegal gambling and scandals, Belgium outright banned the practice in 1872 and 1902.
In 1999, Congress passed the Gambling Act, which outlawed all forms of gambling not specifically listed and allowed them to be run only by individuals who had a license. Online gambling was made legal in the country in 2011 after regulatory changes were made to allow it through registered operators.
The essentials of Belgium’s gaming laws are as follows:
Gambling at casinos is legitimate: Only 9 land-based licenses will be issued, thus any operator who wants to offer casino games, online casino slots, poker, or bingo would need to establish a physical presence in the country or form a partnership with an already licensed physical operator.
Legality of lotteries is established. The Belgian national lottery is the exclusive operator of lottery games, both online and offline.
Betting on sports is legitimate: There are literally hundreds of betting shops around Belgium, and the majority of online sports betting is handled by SCOOORE, which is operated by the Belgian national lottery.