As many as 29,319 Belgians self-excluded themselves from gambling (both online and at land-based venues) in 2017, according to a press release published earlier today on the official website of Belgian Minister of Justice Koen Geens.
The reported figure represents a 9% increase from 2016, when 26,782 opted for exclusion from various types of gambling services.
Another 158,413 were banned from gambling with a court ruling. Most of the court orders were issued to gamblers who had accumulated large debts as a result from their habits. Under Belgium’s gambling law, a court could ban residents from gambling, both online and at brick-and-mortar facilities, in certain cases.
It was also found that 409 gamblers were banned from participating in gambling activities after a request from a third party, including family members and/or partners. The requests are filed to and processed by the Belgian Gaming Commission.
According to today’s press release, the number of excluded and self-excluded people has grown significantly over the past five years. In 2013, 19,670 gamblers self-excluded themselves, while 82,580 were issued a court order and 89 were banned from gambling after a third-party request.
The names of all self-excluded players as well as of those banned from gambling as a result from a court ruling or a third-party request are added to a specially created system. Belgium’s Excluded Persons Information System (EPIS) has been active since 2004. It contains information about all gambling customers that have self-excluded themselves or have been banned from gambling. All gambling customers have their names and dates of birth checked into EPIS upon opening an account with a gambling website or entering a brick-and-mortar gambling facility so that excluded persons are prevented from gambling.
Additional Responsible Gambling Measures
While Belgian lawmakers and gambling regulators consider the country’s gambling exclusion system a powerful protection tool, a new set of rules aimed at serving the same purpose and enhancing existing tools were introduced last fall.
Last October, Belgian politicians gave the nod to proposed curbs on the way gambling services are advertised in the country. The move came as part of the Belgian government’s efforts to limit the proliferation of gambling among vulnerable people.
The new measures prohibit gambling operators from advertising their products during live sports broadcasts. Gambling ads should also not appear on Belgian media before a 10 pm watershed, unless they are part of a non-live sports program. In this case such ads should not air 15 minutes before and after children-focused programs. The new rules also aimed to crack down on affiliate marketing, banning the use of third-party websites for the promotion of gambling products and services.
Legislators also crafted non-advertising limitations as part of the larger package of measures, including a €275 monthly cap on the maximum value of bonuses offered by online gambling operators to each of their customers. Under the new rules, players would not be able to deposit more than €500 per week to fuel their online gambling accounts.
It is still to be confirmed when the new regulations would take effect. But it is believed that they will come into force eight months after their publication in the Belgian Official Journal.
Robert Johnson is an experienced web author and blogger. He has over three years of experience as a freelance journalist and writer.