Public consultation on on-line gambling

On 24 March 2011 the European Commission has published its long awaited Green paper on on-line gambling in the internal market (COM (2011) 128 fin.), the purpose of which is to launch an extensive public consultation on all relevant public policy challenges and possible Internal market issues resulting from the rapid development of both licit and unauthorised on-line gambling offers directed at citizens located in the EU.

The Green paper raises a number of important questions. These questions are all the more important since Belgium has recently put in place a legal framework applicable to online games of chance.

New Belgian online gambling legislation: also important for advertisers, internet service providers and financial institutions

On 1 January 2011 the amended Belgian gambling legislation has entered into force. One of the major modifications is that this legislation contains an explicit regulation for online games of chance and wagers. The Belgian legislature has set up a closed licensing system : offering online games of chance and wagers requires an online license (licenses A+, B+ or F1+). The number of available online licenses is limited. In addition, an online license requires a mandatory physical connection to the Belgian territory : only those operators licensed to operate in the real world (principal licenses) can obtain a license to offer the same games of chance and wagers in the online world (additional online license).

The amended Belgian gambling legislation contains a very broad prohibition clause. Not only is it forbidden to “operate in any place, in any form and in any direct or indirect manner, games of chance or gambling establishments without a license”, but also ‘participating’ in illegal (i.e., offered without a license) games of chance, ‘facilitating the operation’ of illegal games of chance, ‘advertising’ for illegal games of chance or ‘recruiting’ for illegal games of chance is forbidden. Moreover, all these acts are punishable with criminal sanctions. According to the legislative proposal the act of ‘facilitating the operation’ of illegal games of chance includes providing online access to those games and carrying out financial transactions without which it would not be possible to participate to those games.

As a consequence, the Belgian online gambling legislation will have far-reaching consequences not only for those operators offering games of chance and wagers, but also for players, advertisers, internet service providers, financial institutions and whoever may be considered to ‘facilitate the operation’ of an illegal game of chance.

Questions submitted in the Green paper on on-line gambling

The Green paper aims to collect all facts, assess the stakes and to gather the views of all interested stakeholders.

We explained above that Belgian online gambling legislation affects various parties, such as advertisers, ISP’s and financial institutions. Several questions of the Green paper are explicitly addressed to those operators and deal with commercial communications for online games of chance (TV advertising, printed press, online commercial communications, sales promotions, direct marketing, sponsorship agreements) and online payments services and customer identification.

Submit answers and reactions by 31 July 2011

All interested parties are invited to submit their answers to the questions set out in the Green Paper. These answers must be sent to the European Commission by 31 July 2011 at the latest.