While most European jurisdictions allow online gaming operators access to the marketplace without obtaining a brick-and-mortar license, Belgium chose to go a different route.
In January 2010, Belgium began the process of creating a domestic regulated online gaming market. Belgium decided to require operators to be based in Belgium and subject to Belgium’s laws and taxes. The new regulations excluded outside operators from promoting and providing poker and casino games to Belgium citizens.
In January 2011, the new Belgian Gambling Act was enacted. Online games of chance were placed under the supervision of the Gaming Commission. The online licenses (A+, B+, and F1+) allow licensees of the following class licenses to operate games of chance online: Class A (operating casino operations); Class B (operating gaming arcades); and Class F1 (organizing wagers).Under the new Act, only licensed, land-based operators in Belgium may apply for an online license. The operators’ online gaming servers must be located in Belgium and the online games must be the same games offered in land-based operations. This law requires gaming operators to align themselves with an established brick-and-mortar Belgium casino or own one or more themselves. All operators are required to pay a €250,000 guarantee fee. All prior taxes and debts of license applicants must be paid prior to submitting an application. Operators are required to pay an 11% tax on all gross gaming revenues. The horse racing tax is 3% and pari-mutuel bets on foreign horse races are taxed at 3.7%.
The Act also increased the powers of the Gaming Commission, which can now impose fines in case of breach of the Gambling Act. The Act provides criminal penalties and/or administrative sanctions for any person involved in illegal games of chance. This not only applies to the operator who facilitates the illegal games of chance but also to participants.
In January 2012, the Belgium government blocked access to unlicensed online gambling sites. Belgium banks are required to block all financial transactions (coming into or going out of the country) from blacklisted sites and ISPs are required to block access to unlicensed gambling sites.
In February 2012, the Belgium Gaming Commission approved three online gaming licenses allowing Belgium players to legally gamble at PokerStars.be, Partouche.be, and Casino777.be. PokerStars partnered with Casino de Namur; both Partouche and GPWin.be own their own land-based casinos in Belgium. More operators have entered the market since then. Unlicensed Belgium sites offering and accepting Belgium players could be fined from €100 to €100,000.
By mid-2013, there were more than 70 online gaming sites on Belgium’s blacklist. Belgium players gambling at blacklisted sites are considered to be committing a crime and can be fined up to €25,000. It is the player’s responsibility to review the blacklist for banned gaming sites and not be a registered active player.
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Commission des Jeux de Hasard (Belgium Gaming Commission)
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