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November 1, 2014

Belgium: More Gambling Sites Blacklisted


Coat of arms of the Belgian Gaming Commission (BGC)

This story is a follow up to a recent story about the cessation of operations of key online casino and sportsbook sites in Belgium. In recent weeks, online behemoths like Bwin and bet365 had voluntarily agreed to shut down access to its online sportsbooks and casinos by Belgium residents. These moves came after these and other site operators began receiving formal warnings from the Belgium government about maintaining what the government considered to be illegal operations.

It now appears as through the Belgian Gaming Commission (BGC) has added online operator Bet-At-Home to a growing list of blacklisted sites. Based on the gaming authority's actions, any residents who try to access these blacklisted sites are greeted with an exaggerated stop sign emblem, plus a warning from law enforcement about the potential for legal problems if they elect to proceed into the site.

At first, it appeared as though many of these sites were being targeted as part of an ongoing attempt by the government to protect local land-based and online gaming operations. This is often referred to as protectionism politics. The reality might have more to do with the Belgium government putting pressure on these sites to agree to start fork over taxes on revenues earned off the country's residents.

Either way, Bwin and some of the bigger sites originally decided to walk away peacefully in the hopes they could maintain political favor in the future. Along with Bet-at-Home, many of these sites have now decided to seek recourse through the EU court system, as well as trying to find ways to circumvent any attempts to bar its gaming sites. Bwin went as far as to set up an auxiliary site, trying to bypass the blocks. So far, these attempts have failed.

At issue is the lack of any legislation on the books in Belgium that addresses the legality of online gaming within the country's confines. Considering the fact there are some Belgium online operators currently offering services to Belgium residents without hassle, foreign entities are concerned about being subjected to selective targeting and the restriction of trade within the EU.

Another concern is this is the same kind of targeting that is taking place in other countries like Denmark. Many of these bigger iGaming operations are heavily dependent on revenues coming in from all over Europe. If a number of government agencies are successful in shutting down its operations, whether legal or not, some of the gaming industry's largest publicly owned companies are going to incur significant hits to its bottom line.


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