Belgium has announced a tough new ban on gambling advertisements, in a bid to tackle gambling addiction and debt. The first steps of the measure will be implemented from 1 July 2023.
An estimated 23.71% of the Belgian population took part in sports betting between October 2021-2022, according to a survey by TGM Sports Betting.
Belgian Minister of Justice Vincent van Quickenborne welcomed the decree, stating that "the measure is necessary because it must to put an end to the trivialisation and normalization of gambling."
The remit of the ban
The ban will span across various different plaforms - including TV advertisements, social media and public signs. Sponsorships of sports clubs by gambling companies will also be regulated under the plan.
"Nevertheless, a transition period is planned for the sports sector to allow it to adapt to the new reality. We did it well at the time for tobacco advertising and it worked”, stated Quickenborne, who was forced into hiding last year due to threats made by drug cartels.
Under the new legislation, gambling advertisements will be prohibited in stadiums from January 2025, with the ban extending to professional sports clubs from January 2028.
However, the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) stated that "outright bans are not the answer."
"Without advertising, there is no real way for Belgians to tell the difference between a gambling website which is safe - because it is licensed and applies the consumer protection rules in Belgium - and one that is not", Maarten Haijer, Secretary General of the EGBA told Euronews.
"Under the law, lottery products will continue to be advertised which will directly benefit the state-owned lottery provider over other Belgian licensed providers."
In 2022, Europe’s gambling market revenue reached €108,5 billion gross revenue. This represents an 8% increase on 2019 pre-pandemic gambling levels, according to the EGBA.
Tax rules will also be tightened as sponsorship expenses will no longer be deductible for gambling companies.