|Population July 2013:||10.440.000|
|GDP 2012:||321.5 billion EUR|
|GDP per capita:||29,000 EUR|
|Taxation for Lotteries:||None (Belgium only has one lottery)|
The current legal framework for lotteries stems from the Law on Lotteries of 1851 and the National Lottery Act 2002. Since 1851, lotteries are prohibited in Belgium unless they have the public benefit as their principal aim. The exclusive right to organise lotteries for public benefit in Belgium is in possession of the Nationale Loterij (National Lottery) since 1991. Other small-scale lotteries may be arranged at the local level and are carried out under the control of the provinces or the municipalities. In addition, the organisation of the instant lottery and the lotto are also exclusively reserved to the Nationale Loterij. Belgian law makes a distinction between games of chance and lotteries. As a consequence, the Belgian Gaming Commission, established in 1999, supervises all sorts of games of chance, but not the National Lottery. The Nationale Loterij falls under direct control of the Belgian government, which in turn is controlled by parliament. The minister of Finance, for example, reports annually to the parliament on the operations of the Nationale Loterij, and all playing rules have to be approved by the minister, which are then laid down by a royal decree. This way, the minister of Finance decides if new games can be offered and under what conditions.
The daily organization is strictly tied to requirements as well, which are laid down in a fiveyear management contract with the Belgian state. The Nationale Loterij must also submit a business plan every year to the Minister of Finance. Decisions with budgetary or financial implications are additionally controlled by the Minister of Budget. The supervision by the ministers is exercised by a government commissioner, who can visit every meeting of the governing bodies of the Nationale Loterij. Although the Gambling Commission is not qualified to control the games offered by the Nationale Loterij, they can monitor if the royal decrees are being carried out.
For gambling other than lotteries, a new Gambling Law (Kansspelwet) entered into force in 2011 to amend the law of 1999, extending the gambling law with three groups: betting, internet games, and media games. Under the new regulatory regime all kinds of games of chance (except for lotteries) are covered by the Gambling Law, whether such games of chance are provided offline or online. In order to offer online gambling services, the Gambling Law requires operators to hold a license for land-based gambling operations in Belgium and to (re)locate their servers in a permanent establishment on Belgian territory.
The main tasks of the Gambling Commission are to supervise the gambling market, protect consumers, and give advice, and it is responsible for carrying out the Gambling Law. The licensing system is divided between different kinds of gambling operators:
- Casinos (license A)
- Gaming halls (license B)
- Bars (C permit)
- Staff of the casinos and gaming halls (D license)
- Suppliers and repairers of gaming (license E)
- Betting organizations (F1 license)
- Betting (license F2)
- Organizers of television games (G1 license)
- Organizers of media games (G2 license)
- Licensees A, B and F1 for the provision of gambling via the Internet medium (licenses A +, B + and F1 +)
Austrian law distinguishes between the federal and the state level. National and interactive gambling services are regulated by the federal Law on Games of Chance (Glücksspielgesetz). The law provides for a quasi-state monopoly for the organisation of lotteries. According to this law, only one license may be granted for the exploitation of an Austrian lottery by the Ministry of Finance, and only to a private company. Next to the issuance of the license, the Ministry of Finance supervises the licensed company. The single license is granted for a period of 15 years and is currently in possession of the Österreichische Lotterien Gesellschaft mbH (Austrian Lotteries) until 2026.
Only the licensed Austrian lottery company and state-controlled casinos may offer online lottery games and casino type games. Betting is regulated at the state level. The European Court of Justice ruled in September 2010 that the granting of licenses needs to be done in a more transparent way, open to competition from abroad. In the summer of 2010 the Parliament approved an amended Gaming Act. Austrian Lotteries won the tender to continue organizing the lottery.
On January 1, 2011 Belgium implemented new gambling legislation which for the first time regulated online gambling. To protect Belgian consumers from an overload of online operators while still giving them a chance to play online safely, the Belgian legislature has set up a closed licensing system. This regulatory model is based on the concept that only land-based operators can get a license to offer online gambling. Online licenses are therefore linked to offline licenses, which means only licenses for Casinos (A), Gaming Halls (B) and Betting Organizations (F1) can get a license to offer products online (A+, B+ and F1+). The Belgian law stipulates that there can only be 9 A licenses and 180 B licenses, thereby limiting the amount of A+ and B+ licenses. However, the number of F1 licenses are not restricted, hence the number of F1+ licenses isn’t either. This way the Belgian market limits the amount of online operators to the amount of offline operators, thereby containing the number of operators that offer their products but still channelling the online gambling market. The licenses are not divided by a tender process, but have to be authorised by the Gambling Commission. The gambling tax for online gambling sites is set on 11% of the GGR.
The regulatory model does not mean that foreign operators are prohibited to enter the market. Several agreements have been signed between land-based holders of licenses and foreign operators to offer their online products. Also foreign operators are granted online licenses (F1+) by providing them offline licenses (F1) as well. The practical implication of this regulatory model is that online gambling servers are obliged to be situated in the Belgian jurisdiction. This way, the Belgian Gambling Commission can supervise the gambling market more effectively and protect the Belgian consumers better. For example addiction can be countered more effectively by the requirement of a single registration system, which prevents people listed on a blacklist from gambling. There is also a cap on the amount of moneypeople can stake per week. Online operators are also required to have strict control systems which prevent under aged people to play online. The age limit is set for 21 for online gambling and 18 for online betting.
The Gambling Commission is responsible for the supervision of the gambling market and for issuing and revoking licenses. Because of the limitation of online operators in the Belgian regulatory model, it is considered important to have an effective enforcement model to prevent illegal operators to offer their products. In order to prevent people from playing on these illegal sites, the new gaming law provides tools to enforce the objectives set out by the law. The Gambling Commission has the possibility to tackle illegal operators, players, advertisers, internet service providers, financial institutions and other people who may be considered to facilitate the operation of an illegal game of chance. The Gambling Commission can, for example, force internet providers to block internet sites which are on the black list. Unlicensed operators risk a fine between € 100 and € 100,000. The players themselves can also be fined up to € 25,000 for playing on illegal websites.
ONLINE GAMBLING OPERATORS
- For a list of operators licensed to offer their products see: www.gamingcommission.fgov.be
- For a list with all blocked websites in Belgium see: www.gamingcommission.fgov.be
As the Nationale Loterij has the monopoly on organising lotteries at a national level, no other nationwide lotteries exist. At the level of municipality or province, however, it is possible to receive an incidental license to organise a raffle or a tombola. The license can only be awarded if the profits of the tombola are exclusively destined for the public benefit. In recent years, on average about 50 raffles have been organized each year. An example of such a raffle is the annual raffle for the Belgian Red Cross.
Since the Nationale Loterij does distribute a part of the sales to good causes, it is mentioned below. However, the lottery does not meet the criteria of a charity lottery.
The Nationale Loterij* changed in 2002 from a semi-public institution to a limited liability company governed by public law, as set out in the National Lottery Act from 2002. The Belgian state is the only shareholder and the Belgian Minister of Budget and Government Companies is the supervisory authority of the Nationale Loterij. The lottery is obliged to actively cooperate in the prevention and treatment of gambling addiction by supporting initiatives in these areas.
In order to fulfil the criterion of a lottery for the public benefit, the Nationale Loterij must reserve a part of their turnover for subsidies. The total amount is set each year by the Belgian cabinet via a Royal Decree. The subsidy for 2012 was set at € 225.3 million (±20% of turnover), which is to be divided between the federal level (73%) and the three Belgian Communities (27%). The respective governments subdivide the subsidies.
Subsidies for the federal level go to areas with a humanitarian, social, scientific, cultural, sports, educational or national heritage character. In addition, subsidies are granted to four fixed beneficiaries, including the National Disaster Fund and the King Baudoin Foundation. At the level of the Communities, the subsidies go to initiatives and projects with relation to the disabled, the elderly, the environment, education, and sports.
The Nationale Loterij is assisted by the Responsible Gaming Committee (Verantwoord Spel Comité) that judges new types of games and products on their possible addictive nature. It also passes judgments on the marketing, sales and product policy of the lottery. The Committee has, however, no authority to impose sanctions or to prohibit new games; its role is mainly advisory.
The 2012 turnover of the Nationale Loterij was € 1.258 billion (↑4.9%). The share of turnover was the highest for the lotto (€ 489.9 million) and EuroMillions (€ 459.4 million). Scratch games accounted for € 223.5 million and online games € 65.1 million. Of total sales, 53% was distributed as prize money. For more information see www.nationaleloterij.be
* The National Lottery was formerly known as the Colonial Lottery (Koloniale Loterij), and was established in 1934. Later on, the name changed to African Lottery (Afrikaanse Loterij). Since 1962, the official name is National Lottery (Nationale Loterij).
The pressure in Europe for legalising online gambling has been strong and several countries have been struggling with a balanced legislation that on the one hand is restrictive but on the other hand offers a legalised online gambling market. In this respect the Belgian gambling market has been a test case in Europe regarding the legislation of online gambling. In contrast to other countries, where the pressure has led to an overflow of (foreign) online operators, the Belgian regulatory model consists of a restrictive gambling policy where online gambling has been restricted in order to minimize gambling addiction. The gambling industry however has been criticizing the Belgian regulatory model because of its land-based approach. This approach has limited the chances of foreign operators to obtain a license. On 23 June 2010, the Remote Gambling Association (RGA) and the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) therefore lodged a joint complaint with the European Commission.
Because of the strict regulatory model, the European Commission has raised questions whether the online gambling law is in conformity with European Community law. These questions concern particularly the licensing process and the blacklisting of foreign licensed online operators, which could breach the freedom of establishment and provision of services. The succeeding steps of the Commission are still to be expected, but so far they have indicated that they are keeping a close watch until all the legislation has been implemented. The Belgian Constitutional Court rendered a verdict on 14 July 2011 in which it dismissed claims of violation of the constitutional principles of equality and non-discrimination and refused to raise a preliminary issue at the CJEU. Also, Bwin.party, which received a license in 2013, has lost a case in 2011 against the Belgian state, wherein Bwin argued it was illegal to put them on a blacklist. The Belgian court concluded it was legal for the Belgian authorities to block websites which were operating on the Belgian gambling market without a licence.
The future of the Belgian Gambling market therefore remains unsure and the discussion whether the legislation is in conformity with European Community law is not settled yet.