Five Belgian biggest private gambling operators have decided to stop advertising on radio, TV and print media from January 1, 2020, but want the government to force the state-run lottery to follow their lead. The five members of the Belgian Association of Gaming Operators (BAGO) –are Golden Palace Casino, Ardent Group, Napoleon Games, Unibet and Betfirst. They approached the Minister of Justice with the initiative to stop advertising.
Emmanuel Mewissen, the CEO of Ardent said:
“We are aware of the excessive presence of gambling advertising in recent years. With this initiative we want to bring serenity back.” Moreover, he said the BAGO members “want to work out our agreement with the government into a rule for the entire sector, including the National Lottery.”
“An online advertising stop is impossible, because otherwise we will be blown away by the illegal sector. The whole purpose of the new Gaming Act in 2010 was to curb the illegal sector by giving legal companies enough freedom.”
But the BAGO members want Belgium’s Minister of Justice Koen Greens to force the National Lottery to join the big five in the advertising withdrawal. In June, Belgium introduced strict new limits on gambling advertising, and while these plans are currently the subject of legal challenges, the Belgian Gaming Commission (BGC) is conducting a consultation with stakeholders to determine how they’re coping with the new rules. The BGC’s deadline for “practical comments” on this subject is October 4.
The BGC is also having a meeting on October 15 at which online gambling licensees will have the opportunity to present their opinions and concerns. There’s a limit to how many operators will be invited to attend this meeting, so interested parties need to announce their desire to attend by October 11.
The five companies urge equal treatment in the market. They argue that the National Lottery is also a game of chance and there is little difference between their products and the Lottery’s.
The companies said:
“But they’re exempt from all restrictions on advertising that apply to us, also because the Lottery [is] involved in the cockpit of the gambling commission via the government. That makes the Loterij the party and the judge. We want to work out our agreement with the government into a rule for the entire sector.”
The National Lottery was relieved from the advertising restrictions, a gift the five BAGO members find unjustifiable, given Mewissen’s view that the Lottery is “of course also a game of chance” and thus should be subject to the same set of rules that private operators must observe.
Previously BAGO has cited studies that claim an overly limited advertising system would allow internationally licensed online operators to control over half of Belgium’s market within five years of the new rules’ application.