Publication date: 01 Feb 2023
Belgium is one of the first countries in Europe that have decided to legalize gambling. The country has a detailed system of licensing, casino and betting control, and an elaborate system of player protection. In this new review from 3S.INFO, let’s find out how to effectively promote online betting and gambling in Belgium.
How are gambling and betting regulated in Belgium?
There is a Law on Gambling passed in Belgium in 1999. The full name is the Gaming, Betting and Player Protection Act. In 2010, changes were made to online betting and gambling in Belgium.
Under the Gaming Act, the Gambling Commission (Kansspelcommissie / KSC) was created. The Commission issues various types of licenses and supervises the implementation of the law.
The KSC consists of a chairman and two representatives (one French-speaking and one Dutch-speaking) from the Ministries of Economic Affairs, Interior, Health, Finance, National Lottery and Justice.
The issuing of permits is as detailed as possible. In addition to the operation of land-based and online casinos and the acceptance of sports betting (via betting shops or websites) it is possible to obtain a license to install gambling equipment in catering establishments, employ staff, and develop and install software.
Both legal entities and individuals may obtain a license.
To obtain a Belgian gaming license, you must:
- An individual to be a citizen of any of the European Union (EU) countries, for a legal entity to be registered under the law of one of the EU countries.
- Both the individual and the directors of the legal entity must fully enjoy political and civil rights and “conduct themselves in accordance with the requirements of the position”.
- Documentation of creditworthiness and absence of tax debts must be provided.
All licensed online casinos and bookmakers must host their websites in the national domain zone .be.
Licenses are issued free of charge, on the applicant must pay a security deposit, which can be used to cover involuntary costs and expenses.
What kind of gambling is allowed in Belgium?
There are 3 types of licence available for the operation of casinos and online betting in Belgium:
- An A+ license is issued for the organization of online casino gaming. It can only be obtained by holders of an A license (land-based casino operations). It is issued for 15 years; the amount of the security deposit is 250,000 euros.
A list of licensed casinos in Belgium that can operate online can be found on the regulator’s website. As of January 2022, the list includes 8 online casinos: from Betway (under the VIAGE brand), PokerStars (Casino de Namur brand), Unibet (Casino Blankenberge), Bwin (Infiniti Casino Oostende) and others*.
- A B+ licence is issued for the operation of an amusement arcade (including poker). It can be obtained by E licensee (land-based gambling rooms) for a period of 9 years. The amount of the security deposit is 75,000 euros.
The list of companies that have obtained an online gaming license in Belgium includes 45 sites in January 2023.
- The F1+ category is also additional to the F1 licences and allows the holder of an offline licence to accept online betting (including on horse racing). The term is 9 years and the deposit amount is €75,000.
As of early 2023, 24 betting shops in Belgium have this authorization.
How much money is being made in the Belgian gambling market?
According to the regulator for the financial year 2020-21, the gross revenue of legal gambling in Belgium was €969 million. Out of that, the online sector accounted for 61.49%, i.e., €595.8 million. Of which:
- 46.6% was income from online casinos (€277.9 million);
- 27.1% from online betting revenue (€161.2 million);
- 26.3% was income from online slots (€156.8 million).
Compared to fiscal year 2020-19, revenue from the country’s regulated market decreased by 17.8% (was €1.18 billion). At the same time, it is the online segment that grew by 27.9%!
In Belgium, online gaming is taxed at 11% of net income. So last fiscal year organizers of gambling in Belgium paid 65.5 million euros in taxes.
- According to the Guinness World Records, the biggest online casino jackpot was won in Belgium! In the spring of 2021, a Belgian resident hit the jackpot in the Mega Moolah slot game (Microgaming developer) at Napoleon Sports & Casino and won €19.4 million! The Belgian spent €15 on the game.
How do illegal gambling sites get blocked in Belgium?
The Belgian Gaming Commission has a control unit made up of bailiffs and police officers (“liaison officers”). The inspectors look for illegal gambling sites, illegal betting (e.g. cockfighting), illegal poker tournaments or illegal slot machines. The KSC also cooperates with the prosecutor’s office and other government services.
When violations are established, the Gaming Commission draws up a formal report, which is submitted to the public prosecutor’s office. It is then decided whether or not to initiate criminal proceedings. Prosecutors prioritize illegal gambling involving minors or criminal organizations for punishment in the first instance.
If the prosecutor decides not to prosecute, the Gaming Commission may also impose its own fines. Not only the organizers of illegal games can be prosecuted, but also the players.
For the organizers of the game, the amounts of fines are set between 100 and 100,000 euros. In case of a repeat offence, the amount will be doubled.
Players from Belgium who play on an illegal casino or sports betting sites can be fined between €26,000 and €25,000.
In order for players to be able to distinguish a licensed site from an illegal one, the Belgian Gaming Commission has launched the Always Play Legally logo. It is installed on the casino and betting site after the license has been obtained.
The address of the site is also published in the Belgian Official Gazette after the blocking.
The list of illegal gambling sites in Belgium can be found on Kansspelcommissie website. Judging by the data, the blockings happen regularly, every month new addresses of online casinos and betting sites are added. The list of blocked sites includes most sites from the .com domain zone.
Anyone can report an unlicensed site at [email protected].
How to attract an audience from Belgium to casino and betting sites?
The Kingdom of Belgium is a state in northwestern Europe. It has a population of over 11 million people, about 98% of whom live in cities. Apart from native population, large groups of migrants from Italy, Turkey, Morocco and Congo live here.
Figures from the beginning of 2021:
- The average age of residents is 41.6 years, 40.4 years for men and 42.8 years for women.
- About 40% are Belgians aged between 25 and 54 years; the second largest age group (19.5%) is over 65 years old.
- There are slightly more men than women in all age categories.
Belgium is a country divided according to the language principle! The Belgians are very sensitive about their language! Take this into account when designing your advertising material!
There are three official languages: German, Dutch and French.
Dutch and its dialects are spoken by roughly 60% of the population, most of whom are Flemish (the inhabitants of the 5 northern provinces: Antwerp, Flemish Brabant and Limburg, East and West Flanders).
In French, the Walloons, about 40% (southern provinces: Walloon Brabant, Hainaut, Liège, Luxembourg, Nameûr).
German is the main language for 1% of the population. English is taught in schools, but is not compulsory.
The official currency in Belgium is the euro.
Internet accessibility in Belgium is at its highest level. Nearly all residents have access to both broadband and mobile Internet. The country has about 40 mobile operators, but Base, Proximus and Orange are the most reliable with their networks of towers. At the same time, according to StatCounter, in 2022, 61.32% of Belgians will access the internet via desktop and 36.84% via mobile devices.
According to Belgian regulator Kansspelcommissie, 576,600 people used the services of licensed gambling sites at least once a week in 2021. The average number of users per day who played on gambling and betting sites in Belgium in 2021 was 136,888 players.
A total of almost 163,000 new online players were registered in Belgium in 2021.
At the same time, data from the report indicates that the number of online players is steadily increasing:
- In 2020 there were 502,700 weekly players, in 2019 there were 445,200, in 2018 there were 343,800.
- Average number of users per day: 113,000 in 2020, 94,000 in 2019 and 63,000 in 2018.
Advertising rules for betting and gambling in Belgium
From 1 July 2023, all gambling advertising is prohibited.
In particular the promotion of gambling and betting is abolished:
- all types of advertising (videos, banners, etc.) on websites, digital channels and social media platforms;
- personalized mailings by e-mail, messenger, social media messages, sms and push.
However, if a user consciously searches for a particular site for casino games or sports betting, the information in the search results will be available to them.
How can players from Belgium gamble safely?
Restricting gambling advertising in 2023 is one of the measures to protect players in Belgium. There is now a ban on welcome bonuses on Belgian-licensed casino and betting sites, and a deposit limit: a maximum of €200 per week per player) *.
This limit works like this: the €200 limit is available on one account, but on an unlimited number of sites. That means that a player can spend €200 each on the site of several licensed casinos or bookmakers. Therefore, he can still lose a solid amount if he wants to.
Next, as part of the fight against gambling addiction for 2022-2028, the Belgian authorities are planning to increase the limit to €250, but so that it would apply to one player and all operators at the same time. How to implement this in practice has not yet been worked out.
*at the same time, the player can lower or raise the limit himself to €500 per week. To do so, it is enough to write an application on the gambling operator’s website. Recall that a similar experience – with a limit on the deposit amount – was used in Sweden during the COVID 2019 pandemic. This measure was later abolished as ineffective and diverting players to offshore sites.
Since 2004, the Gaming Commission has operated the Excluded Persons Information System (EPIS). A player can enter themselves into the system personally, this can be done by court order, or a third party (e.g., a partner or parent) can apply. Some professions are automatically included in EPIS: judges, notaries, bailiffs and police officers. It is understood that a player whose data is registered in EPIS will not be admitted when verifying with a casino or betting company.
As of 1 January 2023, a maximum of 180.000 Belgian players are registered in EPIS (the data is not accurate since one user may be registered in several categories).
The system of self-exclusion of players in Belgium is well conceived and actively used. But here is the data contained in the Belgian Gaming Commission’s 2022 study, which contains interesting data:
- Approximately 25% of self-excluded continue to actively participate in gambling and betting! Of these, 33.8% use unlicensed operators in Belgium and another 56.8% play the lottery or slot machines in cafes.
- 65.8% of the self-excluded study participants reported receiving direct advertisements from gambling companies. Let us remind you that under current Belgian legislation any marketing activity by operators towards self-excluded players is unacceptable.
Another interesting study by the Center for Computer Games Research at the IT University of Copenhagen concerns the ban on loot boxes (read more about what loot boxes mean in the Knowledge Base). The big developers (Nintendo, EA, Valve, Psyonix and Activision Blizzard) comply with the ban, which was introduced in 2018. However, as of May 2022, paid loot boxes remain accessible in Belgium’s 100 most profitable iPhone games. As a result, the ban on loot boxes has led to more offers from dubious developers entering the market. The second conclusion is that gambling consumers in Belgium have a false sense of security, and another part of the players has become more interested in video games with loot boxes due to the ban.
These studies confirmed the low effectiveness of blocking unlicensed sites and restrictions on casinos or betting shops in Belgium. If a user wants to gamble or bet on sports, he will find a way to do so!
How to create betting and gambling creatives for Belgium?
- Comics are very popular in Belgium, especially in French! Also, street art and graffiti. Perhaps a similar form of presentation in banners or on the landing pages would catch the attention of Belgians.
- Most of the Belgian public holidays are religious (Christmas, Easter, Ascension Day, Day of the Holy Spirit, Pentecost, etc.). The most important public holidays are New Year’s Day (1 January), National Day (21 July), Labor Day (1 May). There are also some important local holidays, such as Day of the Flemish Community (11 July), French Community Holiday (27 September) and Day of the German-speaking Community (15 November). Be careful over the weekend when setting up the ad campaign. On holidays, Belgians prefer to attend a variety of festivals and concerts rather than play online.
- Belgium is a traditional European country, and prefers a low-key, conservative approach to everything: behaviour, clothing and colours. The prize for the Belgian, therefore, is a trip or event tickets rather than an extravagant car or piece of jewellery.
- Belgians are unhurried and patient. A sudden change of personnel or an urgent need to make a decision will deter them rather than motivate them. On the plus side, they can wait until the page loads or the site registration is complete.
What sports are popular in Belgium?
- Football is traditionally popular. A huge boost for betting in Belgium was the Euro 2020. According to the Gaming Commission, in June 2021, on the websites of licensed betting companies in Belgium registered 4 times more players (compared to May 2021) with 36,418 people! A total of nearly 500,000 Belgians bet during the tournament! Daily bets were placed by 191,434 people. A record-breaking 282,000 people did so during a match between Belgium and Finland.
- Local football celebrity is goalkeeper Jean-Marie Pfaff. He was first named the world’s best goalkeeper in 1987 and was included in the FIFA-100 list in 2004. Still popular today is “The Pfaffs”, a reality show about the life of an athlete’s family.
- The popularity of sports can also be judged by the number of visits to websites. In December 2022, the most popular (SimilarWeb data) among all sports were websites with football news (voetbal24.be, voetbalnieuws.be and footnews.be).
- The second most popular sport in Belgium is cycling. There are major international competitions: Ronde van Vlaanderen, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, La Flèche Wallonne, Gent-Wevelgem. One of the most famous cyclists in the world is Belgian Eddy Merckx, who has won the Tour de France 5 times.
- The F1 Grand Prix is held in Spa, one of the most comfortable and famous tracks in the world.
- Belgium is a country of ski resorts with more than 10. Most contain both downhill and cross-country ski trails.
What payment methods work in Belgian casinos and betting sites?
Belgian legislation prohibits the use of any credit card for online casino games or sports betting. You can use debit cards from banks KBC and CBC, Belfius, the Belgian branch of ING bank, and cards of the national system Bancontact (according to various sources, more than 60% of Belgians choose it).
Prepaid cards such as Neosurf and MINT can also be used.
Mobile banking is very popular in the country, with about 70% of Belgians using it. Both global brands (Apple Pay, Google Pay and PayPal) and local providers are used: the electronic micropayment system PingPing or Mobiato.
Interestingly, Visa and MasterCard payments are not available on all sites!
Most online casinos and betting companies accept deposits via Neteller and Skrill, Klarna, PaySafeCard and French HiPay, Sofort
Which traffic sources are popular among Belgians?
According to SimilarWeb, the top 5 online gambling sites in Belgium in December 2022 are nationale-loterij.be, casino777.be, circus.be, bwin.be and napoleonsports.be. Please note that this list includes only licensed operators!
- The most popular casinos in Belgium were casino777.be, starcasino.be, pcmclks.com, mijndigitalebudgetmeter.be and amusnetgaming.com.
- For sports betting, Belgians chose bwin.be, ladbrokes.be, sports.bwin.be, adpointrtb.com and flashscore.fr.
The top search engines were Google (google.com, google.be and google.com.br), com.be and duckduckgo.com.
The most popular social networks and online communities are Facebook and Instagram (banned in Russia), Twitter, Llinkedin and Reddit.
Browser prevalence data in Belgium was provided by StatCounter (for 2022):
- Desktop: Chrome (63.3%), Edge (15.67%) and Safari (13?32%).
- Mobile: Safari (53.8%), Chrome (37.7%) and Samsung Internet (6.91%).
The same service counted the most popular operating systems:
- Desktop: Windows (75.06%,) OS X (19.95%), ChromeOS (3.23%), Linux (1.03%).
- Mobile: iOS (56.18%), Android (43.09%), Samsung (0.56%).
Distribution of mobile devices: Apple (56.18%), Samsung (28.07%), Xiaomi (4.88%), Huawei (3.62%), OnePlus (2.16%), Oppo (1.23%).
Prospects for gambling in Belgium
The Belgian authorities actively continue to study the impact of gambling on the population. In 2023, the Belgian Science Policy Office (BELSPO) is funding a project called “The relationship between gambling sponsorship and gambling normalization and distribution”. Researchers are to find out whether and how much gambling sponsorship affects the prevalence of gambling. The results of the study will enable new recommendations and practices to be developed regarding the issue of betting sponsorship.
Gambling in Belgium is very diverse and in demand! For a long time, licensed betting companies and casinos were free to advertise their brands. This led to great recognition, as well as trust in gambling and betting sites in Belgium on the part of players. Even though the authorities are now imposing more and more bans and restrictions, there is no decline in audience activity: betting and gambling can be done on familiar sites as well as on offshore platforms.
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