Betting,Gambling Associations Protest Belgium's Rules

Published Saturday, July 03, 2010 -

A proposed new Belgian law has caused two online gambling trade associations to combine forces against it, claiming non-compliance with European Union rules. Lodging a joint complaint with the European Commission, the Remote Gambling Association (RGA) has partnered with the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA). Between them the two comprise most of the European internet gambling organizations.
Their allegations stem from Belgium ’s recently adopted legislation within the context of European Union law. Belgium now requires new applicants for an Internet licence seeking to offer online gambling to obtain an offline licence first and actively participate in the land-based market. Other licensed EU member nations have difficulties with a law that contains elements obviously designed to protect Belgian operators.
The joint complainants, RGA and EGBA argue that the new regulations put in place unacceptable barriers. Considering that the majority of European remote gambling firms don’t operate land-based businesses it puts new entrants to the business at a considerable disadvantage. The statement alleges that the new law will require online operators to duplicate infrastructure by locating servers, technical equipment and relevant personnel for land-based establishments.
Yet, Belgium asserts their right as a Member State to have a free hand in determining their own gambling policies. They base this on consumer protection grounds from the results stemming from the ‘Santa Casa’ ECJ ruling concerning the State-controlled Portuguese gambling monopoly. However, when looking at the draft agreement, the European Commission contested those arguments and the non-compliance of the Belgian legislation with EU regulations.
European Commissioner Michel Barnier publicly stated in the European Parliament that the Santa Casa ruling only concerned a specific situation in Portugal . It is unfortunate that the Belgium government chose not to respect the views of the Commission and passed the law without change.
Clive Hawkswood, chief executive officer for the RGA, said, “If consumer protection was the real concern, licences would be granted on the basis of objective criteria assessing the social responsibility of operators,” He added, “There is absolutely no doubt that these measures are driven by protectionism rather than genuine concern for consumers.”
"We hope that the Commission will be consistent with its previous stance on the Belgian laws and will fulfil its duty as guardian of European Union law by taking early action to remedy this abuse."



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