Malta blocks law banning gambling ads in Belgium

The law, which should ban almost all gambling ads in Belgium, cannot yet be introduced. The law is still with the EU Commission, but because Malta has made a detailed statement, the process has been delayed by at least a month.

There is no legislation on online gambling in the EU. The subject is too controversial to agree on, leaving all Member States to pursue their own policies in this area. However, Member States must submit all their laws to the European Commission, even if they relate to a subject for which there is no EU legislation.

In May this year, Belgium submitted a draft royal decree to the European Commission. In ‘Draft royal decree on detailed rules for advertising gambling’, an almost total ban on advertising gambling is described. Sports sponsorship is exempt from the advertising ban in the proposal, and certain forms of product placement may also continue to exist. Furthermore, the advertising ban is broad and prohibits almost all traditional forms of advertising for gaming companies.

In the opening statement, Belgium argues that gambling advertising poses a threat to public health and society:

“Advertising for gambling is ubiquitous on TV, radio, social media and on the street. Such advertising is not without danger to public health and society. Advertising normalizes gambling in society. Through advertising, gambling is presented as socially and culturally acceptable behavior and as a legitimate leisure activity. This is harmful to more vulnerable groups such as minors, young people and gambling addicts. In the absence of a rule at EU level, Member States are free to adopt the rules in this area. In order to better protect players, this decree therefore aims to limit forms for advertising in the field of gambling and betting and to impose regulations on the content of such advertising.”

Draft Royal Decree laying down the detailed rules for Belgium’s advertising of games of chance

BAGO branch association, sister organization to Dutch NOGA, reacted negatively to the European Commission ( 620 KB) during the consultation. It pointed to the dangers to the channel if the ban on gambling ads is introduced.

Malta responds

From the date of notification of a law submitted to the European Commission, a standstill period of three months applies to the Commission and the other Member States. During these three months, other member states can study and react to the law. The law may not yet have been introduced during that period.

It appears that Malta has responded to Belgium’s announcement of the law to ban gambling ads. The overview page of the Royal Decree as it stands now with the European Commission shows that the status quo period has been extended by one month at the hands of Malta. Instead of 9 August, the period now lasts until 9 September.

Malta’s response to the Belgian gambling advertising law has not been published. Malta derives a significant portion of its gross domestic product from online casinos and related industry. It is therefore to be expected that Malta’s reasoned reply is not in accordance with Belgium’s submitted law.

Criticism in Belgium itself

When the ban on gambling ads was announced in Belgium, you could already expect criticism in your own country. The Belgian industry association BAGO reacted unsatisfied. The responsible minister, Quickenborne, was recalled, but the proposal stood firm.

The television industry in Belgium already came up with self-regulatory measures, but they have not yet dampened Minister Quickenborne’s desire to introduce the advertising ban. The charge that the advertising ban came from the national lottery was rejected by the state’s participation.

The Belgian advertising ban did not go unnoticed in the Netherlands either. SP and ChristenUnie, and CDA asked parliamentary questions.

Gambling advertising in the Netherlands also under fire

There is also an advertising ban on gambling advertisements in the making in the Netherlands. Minister Weerwind has already introduced a ban on the use of role models through a policy change.

The ban on gaming ads itself requires a change in the law, which is now being worked on. Untargeted advertising must be banned in the Netherlands from 1 January 2023. Sponsorship of events and programs must be completed by 1 January 2024 at the latest, and sports sponsorship by 1 January 2025.

‘Order amending the ‘Order on recruitment, advertising and abuse-preventing gambling in connection with the restriction of recruitment and advertising activities for high-risk gambling’ is now available for consultation.

A change in law usually takes a lot of time. The first estimate was that the law change would take a year and a half. Weerwind indicated at the announcement that he wants to achieve that in a year. This new law must also be submitted to the European Commission.

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