Gambling advertising banned in Belgium from 1 July

Gambling advertising banned in Belgium from 1 July
A blackjack table during the opening gala of the Grand Casino Brussels. Credit: Belga/ John Thys

The long-awaited rigorous restrictions on gambling advertising in Belgium will take effect from 1 July this year as part of ongoing efforts to crack down on addiction and debt.

A Royal Decree sharply restricting gambling advertising in Belgium was signed by King Philippe and published in the Belgian Official Gazette on Wednesday, Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne confirmed in a press statement.

"The decision is now clear: gambling advertising will be seriously restricted from 1 July 2023. This is necessary to combat the normalisation and trivialisation of gambling," he noted. "The strict rules will have an immediate impact."

He explained that, as was the case when a ban on tobacco advertising was introduced, a transition period will "allow the sector to adapt to the new reality."

'Tsunami of advertising'

Belgium's crackdown started by imposing limits on gambling in newsagents at the start of 2022. Later that year, a limit was placed on the maximum amount that could be spent on online gambling games. However, the latest measure is the most far-reaching and will see the main forms of gambling advertising banned on various platforms, from TV, radio and cinemas to magazines and newspapers.

Advertising on websites and social media platforms will also be prohibited, as well as posters in public spaces. Van Quickenborne explained that "Strict ethical and formal rules have been laid down."

The government argued that the ban, which received criticism when first announced – some even warned that it would be the "end of football" – follows scientific reports that highlight the role played by advertisements in encouraging gambling addictions and cripping debts.

"The government is deeply concerned about the huge amounts of gambling advertising that society faces. And for those who want to escape their gambling addiction, the tsunami of advertising is an additional problem," Van Quickenborne noted.

Ban to be extended

Though the rules will significantly limit the dissemination of gambling advertising in the public sphere, those who actively seek information about gambling may still be confronted with related advertising.

From 1 January 2025, all gambling advertising will be banned from stadiums and from 1 January 2028, sponsorship of sports clubs by gambling companies will also be restricted. This transition period has been included to "respect ongoing contracts."

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The ban will mainly focus on professional sports clubs and less so on amateur sports clubs. "After all, professional sports clubs have much higher visibility, their players are role models for minors and these clubs also sell shirts as merchandising."

Van Quickenborne also referred to the European ruling that allows Dutch casinos close to the Belgian border to advertise in Belgium as well. "To be clear: this in no way affects the introduction of these rules. On the contrary," he noted, explaining that the rules will apply to domestic and foreign casinos.

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