Belgium has taken drastic measures in its fight against gambling harm. The country began a process that will see gambling ads banned from billboards and all forms of media.
Belgium Will Prohibit Most Gambling Ads
The bill to end gambling advertising was introduced this weekend in a draft Royal Decree. The new rules will likely come into power by the end of the year. They will bar gambling companies from advertising their offerings on any form of media, send promotional messages and put posters on the streets. Additionally, sports teams will no longer be able to co-advertise their gambling partners. Franchises will only be allowed to brandish an operator’s brand on their shirts and in their stadiums, although there will be a limit to the square meters posters can occupy.
The country’s ministers approved the draft, which is now awaiting further approval by the EU and the Council of State.
Federal justice minister Vincent Van Quickenborne called gambling “the new smoking.” He proceeded to point out that each year countless people fall victim to some form of gambling addiction. Van Quickenborne condemned the sector for making money on the back of gambling addicts and said that the gambling ads encourage their compulsive behavior.
Furthermore, minors regularly see gambling ads, which encourages them to play from a young age, Van Quickenborne added. Despite the fact Belgium introduced restrictions on ads in 2018, companies kept on finding loopholes to continue marketing their products.
The Law Will Protect the Youth but May Hurt Sports
Online gambling saw unprecedented growth during the pandemic, with many young people discovering betting. According to estimates, 43% more young people have tried online wagering than before COVID-19. In total, 40% of the online gamblers in Belgium are no older than 26 and 70% are younger than 39.
The popularization of online gambling has led to an increase in gambling harm rates. Studies show that there are about 100,000 problem gamblers in Belgium, with a third of them suffering from severe forms of addiction. The Flemish expertise center of Alcohol and Other Drugs said that problem gamblers contribute as much as 40% of the companies’ revenues.
Van Quickenborne recognizes the damage done by excessive gambling and wants to mitigate some of the harm by banning ads. He argues that this will protect people from being pressured into gambling through ads.
However, some people have concerns about Van Quickenborne’s extreme measures. Georges-Louis Bouchez, leader of the Francophone liberal MR party, critiqued the ban of ads and called it a “puritan view.”
Bouchez warned that the ad ban will damage sports as many franchises are reliant on gambling sponsorships. According to him, the new laws may destroy soccer as a whole. Bouchez instead proposed to focus on the problem gamblers who, according to him, are a small minority.