Gaming in Belgium: overview

Legislative framework of gambling regulation

Legislative framework of gambling regulation

◊ Status: Law stated as at 01-Nov-2016 | Jurisdiction: Belgium

Contents

♦ Legislative framework of gambling regulation
   ◊ Overview
   ◊ Definitions of gambling
   ◊ Regulatory authorities
   ◊ Gambling products
♦ Land-based gambling
   ◊ Regulation/licensing
♦ Online gambling
   ◊ Regulation/licensing
   ◊ B2B and B2C
   ◊ Technical measures
♦ Mobile gambling and interactive gambling
♦ Social gaming
♦ Gambling debts
♦ Tax
♦ Advertising
♦ Developments and reform
   ◊ Legal development
   ◊ Reform
♦ The regulatory authorities
◊ Belgian Gaming Commission
♦ Online resources
◊ Belgian Gaming Commission

Overview

images 1. What legislation applies to gambling?

The regulatory framework for gambling consists of a number of different acts.

The key ones are:

  • Federal Act of 7 May 1999 regarding games of chance, wagers and protection of the players (Gaming Act).
  • Federal Act of 31 December 1851 regarding lotteries (Lotteries Act).
  • Federal Act of 19 April 2002 to rationalise the functioning and the management of the National Lottery (National Lottery Act).

For private operators, the most important law is the Gaming Act. While online games of chance were not regulated before 2011, the Gaming Act was modified in 2010 to adopt a strict licensing regime for online games of chance and bets. The Gaming Act does not apply to lotteries that are regulated by the Lotteries Act.

Definitions of gambling

images 2. What is the legal definition of gambling in your jurisdiction and what falls within this definition?
General definition

Gambling under the Gaming Act. Games of chance involve a player committing a stake of any kind which can be lost to other players or to the organisers of the game or a prize can be gained (Article 2(1), Gaming Act). Chance must play some role in determining the winner or apportioning the gain. A game of chance must:

  • Be a game.
  • Involve a stake of any kind.
  • Result in a loss or a gain.
  • Involve at least a minimal degree of chance in the outcome.

Completely free games are not games of chance under the Gaming Act, as they do not involve any kind of stake.

A wager is a game of chance where each player risks an amount on an uncertain event that does not depend on any act of the players.

The Gaming Act clarifies that the following are not games of chance:

  • Sports games.
  • Games where the player can only win up to five additional plays (free of charge).
  • Card, board and parlour games that require a very limited stake and can only result in a gain of low monetary value, which are:
    • played outside class I and II gaming establishments (see Question 4);
    • operated in attraction parks or by industrial fairgrounds, for example in connection with carnivals and trade fairs; or
    • organised occasionally (that is, not more than four times a year) by an association having a social or charitable purpose, or by a non-profit association for the benefit of a social or philanthropic project.

In addition, the Gaming Act explicitly states that it does not apply to lotteries within the meaning of the Lotteries Act, Articles 301 to 303 of the Belgian Criminal Code and to public lotteries and the games set out in section 1, paragraph 1 of Article 3 of the National Lottery Act.

Gambling under the Lotteries Act and the National Lottery Act. A lottery is any transaction offered to the public which is meant to procure a gain by means of chance (Article 301, Criminal Code). There are three elements to the definition of lottery:

  • The loss or gain must be exclusively determined by chance without any active involvement or intervention of the player, regardless of the player’s skill.
  • There is no requirement that the player commits a stake and, therefore, free transactions may also amount to lottery.
  • There must be an offer to the public.
Online gambling

The Gaming Act does not have a separate concept of “online games of chance”, but it does recognise games of chance offered through an instrument of the information society. An instrument of the information society is an electronic equipment for processing (including digital compression) and storing data which is entirely transmitted, conveyed and received by wire, radio, optical means or other electromagnetic means (Article 2 (10°), Gaming Act).

Games of chance offered through an instrument of the information society therefore include games of chance on the internet. By using the term “instruments of the information society”, the Belgian legislature wanted to ensure that the Gaming Act will also apply to games of chance offered through new and unforeseen at the time technologies.

The National Lottery Act allows the National Lottery to organise public lotteries, games of chance, wagers and other games, and to use instruments of the information society for all these services (see Question 4, Lottery).

Land-based gambling

No separate definition of land-based gambling exists in Belgian law and the general definition applies (see above, General definition).

Regulatory authorities

images 3. What are the regulatory or governmental bodies that are responsible for supervising gambling?

Under the Gaming Act, the Gaming Commission has responsibilities relating to games of chance and wagers:

  • Advisory. On request from Parliament or a respective minister, the Gaming Commission provides advice about legislative or regulatory issues within the scope of the Gaming Act.
  • Granting licences. The Gaming Commission is responsible for granting licences for certain games of chance. While there is a general broad prohibition to commercialise games of chance, offering games of chance with the required license is allowed (see Questions 4 and 5).
  • Supervisory. The Gaming Commission is responsible for monitoring compliance with the Gaming Act and controlling the licences that have been granted. The available number of licences is limited and they are granted for a fixed period of time (see Question 5).

Gambling products

images 4. What gambling products have been specifically identified by legislation, and what different requirements have been established for each?

The Gaming Act itself does not specifically identify any gambling products. Instead, for each category of licence (except F1 licences) it states that the holders can offer the games of chance which are listed in a royal decree (that is, in an act of the executive). There are nine categories of licence (see Question 5, Available licences).

Poker

The Gaming Act does not mention poker specifically, but poker will usually qualify as a game of chance under the general definition, unless it is a free poker game (see Question 2, General definition). Two types of gaming establishments can offer poker (see Question 5, Available licences):

  • Casinos that operate under licence A as a class II game of chance establishment.
  • Gaming arcades that operate under licence B as a class II game of chance establishment.
Betting

The Gaming Act contains specific definitions of bets, mutual bets and fixed odds bets (see below). Bets can be organised on sports events, such as horse races, and other, non-sporting, events. It is prohibited to organise wagers on events or activities:

  • Which are contrary to public order or morality.
  • Whose outcome is known.
  • Where the uncertain act has already occurred.

The Gaming Act also lists exclusively the bets on horse races which can be offered:

  • Totalisator betting (mutual bets) on horse races taking place in Belgium which are organised by a racing association approved by the competent federation.
  • Totalisator betting (mutual bets) on horse races taking place abroad under conditions set by the King.
  • Fixed or conventional odds betting on horse races taking place in Belgium which are organised by a racing association approved by the competent federation.
  • Bets on horse races taking place abroad, either in accordance with the results of totalisator betting or with the odds agreed between the parties.

Organising bets requires an F1 licence, the maximum number of which is 35. Accepting bets for the account of an F1 licensee requires an F2 licence. Class IV gaming establishments are places exclusively permitted to accept bets on behalf of an F1 licence holder. It is prohibited to accept bets outside a class IV gaming establishment, which can be either:

  • Fixed and therefore permanent.
  • Mobile, which is temporary and offers bets during and at events, sports games or sports competition.

Both types of class IV gaming establishment must be clearly marked. A royal decree determines that up to 1,000 fixed and 60 mobile class IV gaming establishments can be licensed.

Sports betting

The Gaming Act does not impose separate requirements for sports betting. This falls under the same licensing regime as betting in general (see above, Betting).

Casino games

Casino games can only be offered in a casino that is in a class I gaming establishment. Operating a casino requires an A licence (see Question 5, Available licences).

The games of chance that can be offered in casinos are (Royal Decree of 19 July 2001):

  • Table games, which include:
    • baccarat;
    • big wheel;
    • blackjack;
    • poker;
    • chemin de fer;
    • craps;
    • mini punto banco;
    • midi punto banco;
    • maxi punto banco;
    • French roulette;
    • American roulette;
    • English roulette;
    • sic bo; and
    • bingo.
  • Automatic games, which include:
    • reel-slot-type games;
    • video-slot-type games;
    • wheel-of-fortune-type games;
    • horse races with several terminals where at least 12 players can take place;
    • keno-type games; and
    • interactive poker games.

Casinos can therefore offer poker both as a table game and as an automatic game. They may also organise one poker tournament per year in close co-operation with the Gaming Commission.

Slot and other machine gaming

Casinos can offer reel-slot-type games, video-slot-type games and wheel-of-fortune-type games (Royal Decree of 19 July 2001). Gaming arcades can offer automatic games without players’ cards and automatic games with players’ cards (Royal Decree of 26 April 2004). With players’ cards the maximum hourly loss per player can be guaranteed, whereas before this system only a maximum hourly loss per machine was possible. There are five recognised types of automatic games without players’ cards:

  • Blackjack
  • Horse bets.
  • Dice games.
  • Poker games.
  • Roulette.

There is currently only one game of chance that licence B holders can offer as an automatic game with players’ cards (that is, interactive poker).

Terminal-based gaming

See above, Casino games and Slot and other machine gaming.

Bingo

Bingo is a table game that may be offered in a class I gaming establishment, that is, in a casino (see above, Casino games). In addition, under Royal Decree of 2 March 2004, bingo machines are also allowed in class III games of chance establishments (bars) for which C licences are required. Bars are premises where drinks are sold to be consumed on the spot and where no more than two games of chance are offered (bingo and one-ball).

Lottery

Lotteries are outside the scope of the Gaming Act, but are prohibited by Article 1 of the Lotteries Act. There are certain limited exceptions to this general prohibition, namely for lotteries that are exclusively intended for religious or charitable purposes, promoting industry and art or any other purpose in the general public’s interest. These lotteries must obtain a licence at either a local, provincial or national level, depending on their area of offering.

The National Lottery Act itself does not identify any specific games, but identifies the categories of games which the National Lottery can offer. The National Lottery’s statutory responsibilities include organising (Article 6, section 1, paragraphs 1 to 3, National Lottery Act):

  • Public lotteries.
  • Games of chance.
  • Wagers.
  • Other games.

The National Lottery has a monopoly on offering public lotteries. These services must be offered in the general public’s interest and in accordance with commercial practice. However, the National Lottery cannot freely decide which games, games of chance, wagers or public lotteries it will offer. A royal decree must first set the forms and general rules for each of them.

The organisation of public lotteries, games of chance, wagers and games are public services. For all of these, the Lotteries Act explicitly provides that the National Lottery may use instruments of the information society (see Question 2, Online gambling).

Land-based gambling

Regulation/licensing

images 5. What is the licensing regime (if any) for lande-based gambling?

Available licences

The following land-based gaming licences are available (Gaming Act):

  • Licence A: class I gaming establishment (casino). There are nine available licences and nine active licences. Licences are available for 15-year periods and are renewable.
  • Licence B:class II gaming establishment (gaming arcades). There are 180 available licences and 176 active licences. Licences are available for nine-year periods and are renewable.
  • Licence C:class III gaming establishment (bars). The number of licences is not limited and in 2015 there were 1680 active licences. Licences are available for five-year periods and are renewable.
  • Licence D: exercising a professional activity within class I, II or IV gaming establishments. The number of licences is unlimited and the number of active licences is unknown. The duration of the licence is unspecified in the Gaming Act.
  • Licence E:sale, rental, supply, making available, import, export, manufacture, maintenance, reparation and equipment of games of chance. The number of licences is unlimited and there are 186 active licences. Licences are available for ten-year periods and are renewable.
  • Licence F1: class IV gaming establishment (organisers of bets). There are 35 available licences and 33 active licences. Licences are available for nine-year periods and are renewable.
  • Licence F2: licence to take bets on behalf of an F1 licence holder. There are 1,000 fixed and 60 mobile licences available, and the number of active licences is unknown.Licences are available for three-year periods and are renewable.
  • Licence G1: media games. The number of licences is unlimited and the number of active licences is unknown. Licences are available for five-year periods and are renewable.
  • Licence G2: media games. The number of licences is unlimited and the number of active licences is unknown. Licences are available for one-year periods. After that one-year period, a new licence application must be submitted.

Class I gaming establishments (casinos) must be authorised by the King. They are establishments which operate games of chance (automatic or not) where socio-cultural activities take place, such as shows, exhibitions, congresses and hotel and catering activities. The Gaming Act only allows nine casinos on Belgian territory and specifies the municipalities and cities where a casino may operate. These are:

  • Blankenberge.
  • Chaudfontaine.
  • Dinant.
  • Knokke-Heist.
  • Middelkerke.
  • Namen.
  • Oostende.
  • Spa.
  • Brussels.

Class II gaming establishments (gaming arcades) are establishments which operate only games of chance that are authorised by the King. The number of available class II gaming establishments licences is limited to 180.

Eligibility

The application form for each licence is available on the Gaming Commission’s website. Eligibility requirements vary for each gaming licence. For example, only EU citizens and EU-registered companies can apply for A or B licences to operate casinos or gaming arcades. In general, an applicant for an A, B, E or F1 licence must submit fiscal, criminal and financial information about itself. A legal person must include additional information about its directors and shareholders together with supporting evidence. Failure to meet any conditions set out in the application form or to submit the requested information will result in the application being denied.

Application procedure

Under the various royal decrees which regulate the application procedure for each respective gaming licence, the Belgian Gaming Commission must process applications within a certain period (for example, within six months for an F1 licence) of receipt of the application.

The application itself must be made in writing or electronically and involves the following steps:

  • Completing the application form. This allows the Gaming Commission to identify the applicant and assess their suitability for a licence.
  • Together with the completed application form, additional documents must be submitted and they may include:
    • information about the game which is going to be offered;
    • the rules of the game which is going to be offered;
    • a proof of the applicant’s solvency;
    • copies of last three years’ tax returns; and
    • certificates from the competent government body of the tax debts of the applicant company and the criminal record of its directors.
Duration of licence and cost

In relation to duration, see above, Available licences.

Most licence holders must pay a warranty, which varies from EUR250,000 for an A licence, to EUR75,000 for a B licence and to EUR10,000 for a F1 licence. In addition, the licence holders must pay an annual fee.

6. What are the limitations or requirements imposed on land-based gambling operators?
Prohibitions

Persons younger than 21 years are prohibited from entering casinos or gaming arcades. Minors (less than 18 years) are prohibited from betting. The same age requirements apply to online games of chance and bets. The Gaming Act prohibits certain persons from accessing casinos and gaming arcades (for example, magistrates).

Giving credit or a loan and engaging in a financial or other transaction in casinos (class I gaming establishments) to pay for a stake or a loss is prohibited, except for credit and debit cards. However, payment by credit card is not allowed in class II, III and IV gaming establishment and for online games of chance and bets. It is also prohibited to have ATMs in class I, II, III and IV gaming establishments.

Restrictions

The Gaming Commission has drafted metrology protocols for each type of gaming establishment to describe the testing standards for the machines which will be used in the gaming establishment. The Gaming Commission has also drafted informatics protocols with detailed rules for local area network (LAN), servers, video surveillance and so on for each type of gaming establishment. All protocols, both metrology and informatics, are available on the Gaming Commission’s website in Dutch and French.

Casinos (class I gaming establishment) . The following apply:

  • The operating rules and additional requirements for accounting and control of games of chance that can be offered in class I gaming establishments are listed in the Royal Decree of 3 December 2006.
  • Class I and II gaming establishments must have an access register (Royal Decree of 15 December 2004).
  • The rules for the supervision and control of the games of chance offered in casinos, including control through an IT system are set out in the Royal Decree of 23 May 2003. For example, all casinos must have a LAN, which must be connected with the LAN of the Gaming Commission at all times.

Gaming arcades (class II gaming establishment) . The following apply:

  • The operating rules for the automatic games of chance which can be offered in class II gaming establishments are set out in the Royal Decree of 8 April 2003.
  • The rules for supervising and controlling the games of chance offered in class II gaming establishments are set out in the Royal Decree of 23 May 2003. This includes the IT system controls. For example, class II gaming establishment must have a LAN that is connected to the Gaming Commission at all times.

Bars (class III gaming establishment). The Royal Decree of 11 July 2003 sets out the operating rules for the games of chance which can be offered in class III gaming establishments.

Bookmakers (class IV gaming establishment) . Several Royal Decrees of the same date (22 December 2010) set out detailed rules, which regulate the:

  • Operation of bookmakers.
  • Conditions for organising mutual bets on horse races taking place abroad.
  • Automatic games of chance which can be offered in class IV gaming establishments.
Anti-money laundering legislation

Class I gaming establishments (that is, casinos) are subject to the Belgian Anti-Money Laundering Act of 11 January 1993 which, as amended, implements Directive 2005/60/EC on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purpose of money laundering and terrorist financing (Third Anti-money Laundering Directive).

On 5 June 2015, the EU adopted Directive 2015/849/EU on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purposes of money laundering or terrorist financing (Fourth EU Anti-Money Laundering Directive). It expands its scope to all online and offline gambling operators, whereas the previous directives only targeted casinos. The Gaming Commission is currently part of a working group to implement this Directive in Belgium.

Online gambling

Regulation/licensing

images 7. What is the licensing regime (if any) for online gambling?

Before the amended Gaming Act came into force on 1 January 2011, online games of chance were unregulated. Since that date there has been a clear legal framework for regulating the offer of online games in Belgium and the legislature has established a closed licensing system. Offering online games of chance and bets now requires an additional online licence as well as the principal land-based licence (see below, Available licences).

A case was brought before the Belgian Constitutional Court in 2010 to contest the constitutionality of several provisions of the Gaming Act. One of the arguments was that the online gambling legislation violated the freedom to provide services, as protected by Article 56 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). In its judgment of 14 July 2011, the Belgian Constitutional Court dismissed the arguments set forth by the claimants and held that the online gambling legislation does not violate the freedom to provide services.

In November 2013, the European Commission sent a letter of formal notice to the Belgian authorities requesting information on the Belgian legislation restricting the supply of gambling services. The Commission raised questions about the transparency of the Belgian legal framework and particularly of the rules governing online gambling business and in view of the grant of a betting licence by a royal decree to the National Lottery. The European Commission has not taken further action since then.

 

Available licences

The online licences cover the online version of the bets and games of chance that can be offered under land-based licences, and the applicant must already hold the principal licence to which the additional licence is complementary (see Question 5, Available licences). The additional licences are the following:

  • A+ licence for online casinos. There are nine available licences and eight of them are active as of July 2016. The A+ licence is additional to the A licence.
  • B+licence for online gaming arcades. There are 180 available licences and 30 of them are active as of July 2016. The B+ licence is additional to the B licence.
  • F1+ licence for online bets. There are 35 available licences (initially only 34) and 13 of them are active as of July 2016. The F+ licence is additional to the F licence.
Eligibility

The applicant for an online licence (that is, A+, B+ or F1+) must satisfy conditions, such as relating to:

  • Creditworthiness.
  • Policy in relation to socially vulnerable groups.
  • Complaints policy.
  • Advertisements.
  • Fiscal obligations.

In addition to these, a physical connection to Belgium is required. Only operators holding either a principal licence A, B or F1 can obtain an additional A+, B+ or F1+ online licence to offer the same games of chance and bets online (see above, Available licences). Therefore, the Belgian gambling legislation introduces a parallel between offline and online licences. The servers where data is stored and which the website is administrated through must be located in a permanent establishment in Belgium.

 

Application procedure

On 1 September 2011, the regulatory framework for online games of chance was completed as two royal decrees entered into force. The first one prescribes the necessary application form for the additional licence and how the application must be submitted and verified (Royal Decree of 21 June 2011 on the form of the additional licence and the manner in which applications for an additional licence for games of chance must be submitted and examined). The second sets the quality requirements to be met by the applicant (Royal Decree of June 2011 on the quality requirements to be met by an applicant for an additional licence for games of chance).

The first royal decree requires the applicant to enclose with its application a plan containing the following information about the website:

  • Name.
  • Structure.
  • Place where the website will be administered (meaning that the Gaming Commission must know where the servers will be located and hosted).
  • Points of contact.
  • Party responsible for the administration.

The Gaming Commission must process applications for an online licence within six months of receipt.

The second royal decree contains requirements that the applicant must meet in relation to:

  • Creditworthiness.
  • Security of payment transactions between it and the players.
  • Its policy for the accessibility of games of chance for socially vulnerable groups.
  • Its complaints procedure.
  • Its advertisement policy.
  • Its fiscal obligations.

In addition, the applicant is responsible for establishing a permanent data connection between its website and the Gaming Commission.

 

Duration of licence and cost

The duration of online licences are linked to the duration of their land-based counterparts, as described above. The warranties to be paid are:

  • EUR250,000 for an A+ licence.
  • EUR75,000 for a B+ licence.
  • EUR75,000 for an F1+ licence.

Additionally, the online licence holder must pay an annual fee.

images 8. What are the limitations or requirements imposed on online gambling operators?
Prohibitions

Persons younger than 21 years are not allowed to access online casino games or gaming arcades. Online bets are prohibited for minors (persons less than 18 years).

Restrictions

There are currently few binding restrictions, principally because the legal framework for online games of chance and bets has not yet been completed (see Question 17, Online gambling).

Anti-money laundering legislation

The Fourth EU Anti-Money Laundering Directive will also apply to online operators of games of chance, but has not yet been implemented in Belgium (see Question 6, Anti-money laundering legislation).

B2B and B2C

images 9. Is there a distinction between the law applicable between B2B operations and B2C operations in online gambling?

 B2B operators need an E licence to carry out any of the following in relation to equipment and games of chance:

  • Sale.
  • Rental.
  • Supply.
  • Making available.
  • Import.
  • Export.
  • Manufacture.
  • Maintenance.
  • Repairs.

The Gaming Act does not distinguish between land-based and online games of chance. Therefore, all undertakings providing one of these services to an A+, B+ or F1+ licence holder must also obtain an E licence.

Technical measures

images 10. What technical measures are in place (if any) to protect consumers from unlicensed operators, such as ISP blocking and payment blocking?

 The Gaming Commission publishes a blacklist of prohibited gaming websites on its website. The domain names of 105 websites were included in that blacklist in July 2016. The list is provided to all Belgian internet service providers, most of which block these websites by DNS. In addition, the Gaming Commission has developed a protocol with Febelfin, a Belgian non-profit association representing banks and financial institutions. This unpublished protocol requests Belgian banks and financial institutions to block payments to and from blacklisted operators. In March 2014 the Belgian press reported that accounts and payments of one of the blacklisted operators were effectively blocked for the first time.

 Mobile gambling and interactive gambling

images 11. What differences (if any) are there between the regulation of mobile gambling and interactive gambling on television?

 The Gaming Act provides for the explicit regulation of media games. A media game is defined as a game of chance which is operated via media (including television). A provider of media games must obtain a G1 or G2 licence.

Social gaming

images 12. How is social gaming regulated in your jurisdiction?

 There is currently no regulation in force that specifically regulates social games. Social games fall within the scope of the Gaming Act only if they qualify as a game of chance (see Question 2, General definition).

For example, social games which do not require any stake to be committed whatsoever (that is, completely free games) are not games of chance and therefore fall outside the scope of the Gaming Act. Caution must be exercised, as it must be verified that these games are genuinely free to play and do not involve, for example, hidden costs that qualify as a stake. The use of virtual currency in social games is therefore potentially problematic. If virtual currency is not bought with real money and can only be earned free of charge by playing, it arguably represents no actual value and is therefore not a stake.

Gambling debts

images 13. Are gambling debts enforceable in your jurisdiction?

The Belgian Civil Code contains a broad prohibition for the winner to make a judicial claim (Article 1965, Civil Code). There is an important exception to this broad prohibition for games of chance and bets which have been commercialised under the appropriate licence (Article 1966, Civil Code), but a court has the power to reject an excessive claim. The loser cannot reclaim the submitted stakes, except in cases of fraud (Article 1967, Civil Code).

Tax

images 14. What are the applicable tax regimes for land-based and online gambling?
Land-based gambling

Betting and gaming tax is generally levied on the gross amount of the stakes. Certain games of chance are explicitly excluded from betting and gaming tax, such as permitted lotteries. There are several specific tax regimes which are summarised below.

Bets. In the Flemish and Brussels-Capital Regions, bets on horse races, dog races and sports events which take place in Belgium or in a European Economic Area (EEA) member state are taxed at 15% on the actual realised gross margin.

Bets on horse races, dog races and sporting events taking place outside the EEA are taxed at 15% on the gross amount of the stakes involved.

In the Walloon Region, bets are generally taxed at 15% on the actual realised gross margin.

Casino games. In the Flemish Region, casino games are taxed as follows:

  • Baccarat: at 5.3% on the banker’s winnings.
  • Roulette without zero: at 3% on the gambler’s winnings.
  • Other casino games: at 33% on the gross gaming revenue, but at 4% on the part of the gross gaming revenue in excess of EUR865,000.

In the Walloon Region, casino games are taxed as follows:

  • Baccarat: at 4.8% on the banker’s winnings.
  • Roulette without zero: at 2.75% on the gambler’s winnings.
  • Other casino games: at 33% on the gross gaming revenue up to EUR1.36 million and 44% on the part of the gross gaming revenue in excess of EUR1.36 million.

In the Brussels-Capital Region, casino games are taxed as follows:

  • Baccarat: at 4.8% on the banker’s winnings;
  • Roulette without zero: at 2.75% on the gambler’s winnings;
  • Other casino games: at 33% on the gross gaming revenue, but 44% on the portion of the gross gaming revenue in excess of EUR865,000.
Online gambling

The three regions (that is, the Walloon, Flemish and Brussels-Capital regions) have the competence to determine the applicable tax rates for online games of chance and bets. Currently, the tax rate is set at 11% of the actual gross margin realised with the game of wager that is the gross amount of stakes minus the distributed profits.

Introduction of VAT for online games of chance

While most gaming transactions were VAT-exempt, the Belgian government decided in 2016 to introduce a VAT rate of 21% for online games of chance. The exemption for online and offline lotteries and for offline games of chance is maintained. The Belgian VAT Code was amended by Article 31 of the Programme-Law of 1 July 2016, published in the Belgisch Staatsblad/ Moniteur belge on 4 July 2016. The new VAT regime entered into force on 1 August 2016.

Advertising

images 15. To what extent is the advertising of gambling permitted in your jurisdiction? To the extent that advertising is permitted, how is it regulated?
Land-based gambling

The Gaming Act explicitly prohibits advertising games of chance or gaming establishments if it is known that the game of chance or gambling establishment is not authorised under the Gaming Act. A violation of this prohibition is a criminal offence.

 

Online gambling

In relation to online gambling, advertising unauthorised games of chance or gaming establishments is also prohibited. A violation of this prohibition is a criminal offence.

The Gaming Act provides that a royal decree may set out rules regarding advertising licensed online games of chance and bets (section 2(e) , Article 43/8, Gaming Act). No such royal decree has been issued yet.

Articles 8 and 9 of the Royal Decree of 21 June 2011 state that the application for an online licence must clearly explain the advertising policy that is going to be implemented. The same royal decree stipulates that an operator must observe a certain caution in its advertisements.

 

Developments and reform

Legal development

 

16. Has the legal status of land-based and online gambling changed significantly in recent years, and if so how?
Land-based gambling

There are currently only nine casinos in Belgium. The coalition agreement of the current federal government states that in the future 11 casinos will be allowed in Belgium. This will require an amendment of the Gaming Act.

The Gaming Act limits the number of available B licences (gaming arcades) to 180. To ensure the economic strength of the gaming arcades market the Gaming Commission has decided to decrease this number to 150.

The Gaming Commission is in the process of regulating several new gaming products, most notably virtual bets and live gaming.

 

Online gambling

VAT was introduced on online gambling in 2016 (see Question 14, Introduction of VAT for online games of chance). This has been heavily criticised, not only by licensed online operators, but also by the regions (that are federated bodies). Some academics have also expressed doubts about the legality of the new VAT regime.

The Gaming Commission also regulates online virtual bets.

 

Reform

 

17. What, if any, are the likely short-term and long-term developments/legislative amendments concerning gambling in your jurisdiction? Are there any proposals for reform?
Land-based gambling

If the number of casinos is to be raised from nine to 11, the Gaming Act must be amended. It is uncertain if and when the Belgian government will submit the proposal.

 

Online gambling

Section 2 of Article 43/8 of the Gaming Act provides for royal decrees to regulate various matters, including the:

  • Conditions under which games can be offered, covering at least:
    • registration and identification of the player;
    • age control;
    • games offered;
    • rules of the game;
    • payment methods; and
    • prize distribution.
  • Methods for monitoring and controlling the games operated.
  • Games that can be operated.
  • Information provided to players about the lawfulness of online games of chance offered on a licensed website.

The Belgian government has not issued the necessary decrees yet. It is widely expected that it will complete the regulatory framework for online games of chance and bets.

In April 2014 Belgium notified three draft royal decrees to the European Commission:

  • Draft Royal Decree regarding the conditions for offering games of chance by information society tools.
  • Draft Royal Decree on the list of games that may be operated by holders of an additional licence by information society tools.
  • Draft Royal Decree on monitoring and control procedures for games of chance operated through authorised websites.

The regulatory authorities

Belgian Gaming Commission

W www.gamingcommission.be

Description. This is the main regulatory authority for games of chance and bets, both offline and online. Its powers are set by the Gaming Act, as described above.

Online resources

Belgian Gaming Commission

Wwww.gamingcommission.be

Description. This is the website of the Belgian Gaming Commission and it is the most important official source of information for all gambling matters in Belgium. These are some examples of what is published on it:

  • Gaming Act in Dutch, French and English.
  • Gaming Commission’s monthly informative notices.
  • Gaming Commission’s annual reports.
  • Blacklist of prohibited web sites.
  • List of all licence holders.

 

Source: Practical Law

Categories
Legislative FrameworkREGULATION

RG MAGAZINE Gambling and Social Responsibility
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