Belgium’s government has approved a draft royal decree that would place restrictions on gambling advertising. Sponsorships in sports will be restricted as of 2025.
The first measures from the decree are expected to come into force on June 1, 2023, and will initially place restrictions on all forms of advertising for betting products and services. Sponsorships of sports clubs by gambling firms will be limited under further measures to come into effect in 2025.
While the prime minister’s office has stated that the new measures are fully approved, opponents of the legislation including political party MR’s chairperson Georges-Louis Bouchez said on Twitter Friday that the text of the decree still needs to be discussed with government partners.
.@VincentVQ va une nouvelle fois trop vite. Il n’y a pas d’accord sur le texte des jeux de hasard puisque le texte n’a pas été montré aux partenaires. Il reste des questions importantes à déterminer. Aussi, parler de mafia du jeux est totalement irrespectueux. #PresidenceMR— Georges-L BOUCHEZ (@GLBouchez) December 16, 2022
Plans to limit gambling sponsorship and advertising were introduced in May 2022, with no objections from the country’s Council of State or the European Commission.
Justice Minister, Vincent Van Quickenborne, cited various problem gambling statistics when presenting the decree earlier this year. He noted that a study had found that 33% of problem gamblers were persuaded to continue doing so after receiving marketing emails. The report also found that 31% did so after seeing some form of gambling advertising.
The new decree will prohibit gambling ads on posters in public places, or the use of personalized advertising by email, post, SMS, social networks and any printed advertising.
However, sporting clubs have been given additional time to negotiate new advertising and sponsorship deals with gambling companies. They will also be permitted to display a gambling brand’s logo on the back of an athlete’s jersey until December 2027.
Nonetheless, the decree has tightened tax rules, meaning that sponsorship deals are no longer tax deductible for gambling companies.
Back in May, Van Qiuckenborne stated that the gambling industry is “making more and more profit in our country, all ‘thanks to’ people with a gambling addiction.”
“Gambling advertising is fired at us from all sides every day and encourages these addictions, including young people. More than 100,000 gamblers show problematic gambling behavior and a third of them already have serious addictions,” he said.
According to the sector's most recent figures (2019), a total of more than EUR 2 billion was spent on gambling, and 64% of the adult population has tried gambling at least once a year.
More than 100,000 active gamblers in Belgium have a gambling disorder, and a third of them have a severe addiction. Van Quickenborne stated that the damage “is already done, often with enormous financial, spiritual and social consequences.”