Last year saw the Excluded Persons Information System (EPIS) – the blacklist of people not allowed to frequent casinos, betting shops or online gambling sites – increase to 360.553 names.
The various reasons for being on the list include one in ten who have asked for their own exclusion, or been named by a family member as representing a danger to themselves because of a gambling addiction.
Real and online gambling sites are in any case closed to anyone under the age of 18, while casinos and slot machine arcades have a minimum age of 21.
But not everyone who is barred from betting is considered a danger to themselves or others. Some professions are automatically barred from certain types of gambling: magistrates, notaries, bailiffs and members of the police force.
In those cases, the measure is a way of protecting against someone’s gambling debts being used to extort them to break the law.
EPIS has been in use in Belgium since 2004. Any time a member of the public enters a real or virtual casino or betting office, or a real slot machine arcade, they are required to give a first and second name and a date of birth, which are checked against the register to make sure the person is not banned.
For those living close to one of Belgium’s borders, and who may feel the temptation to gamble in the Netherlands, France or Germany, the possibility exists to apply for a self-imposed ban, for a period of time or a certain number or frequency of visits, from casinos in those countries.
The foreign ban can apply in the case of Holland Casino establishments in the Netherlands, all casinos in France (but application has to be made at a French police office) and casinos close to the Belgo-German border in Aachen, Duisburg or Hohensyburg Casino in Dortmund.
The names listed by EPIS fall into various categories: 10.1% voluntary exclusion; 16% excluded by profession; 27.9% excluded by reason of a debt resettlement agreement; and 46% by judicial order.
The final total of 360,553 entries does not represent the real number of those barred, the Commission explains, as some people may fall under more than one heading – for example an inveterate gambler who is also a police officer.