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Belgium’s suite of new responsible gambling protections will enter force from 1 September after being approved last month.

The updated RG rules will further restrict operators active in Belgium following the imposition of a gambling advertising ban on 1 July 2023.

Among other measures, the law includes a ban on gambling inducements, such as bonuses or free bets.

The legal gambling age is also set to rise to 21, from the current level of 18.

In addition, the law further entrenches a previously implemented gambling ad ban, by now prohibiting in principle all forms of advertising unless specifically approved by the government.

Belgium’s Chamber of Representatives first passed the new rules in January. The bill was originally tabled by Green MP Stefaan Van Hecke, after the politician spent five years campaigning for the changes.

The country’s National Lottery has so far escaped the new RG rules, with neither the ad ban nor the age rise applying to the organisation.

According to Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad, this was a source of controversy among some MPs.

“The National Lottery is the biggest cause of gambling addiction in the country,” said independent MP Jean-Marie Dedecker.

“Even people on the blacklist can go there. The scratch cards are very popular among young people. And the games can hardly be distinguished from the games of the gambling companies.”

Belgium’s growing black market

The tightened RG rules follow a trend of increasingly onerous regulation in Europe, as mature markets seek to tackle the impact of problem gambling.

Critics of the enhanced regulation have argued the new burdens will ultimately work to drive players to the black market.

In December, the Belgian Association of Gaming Operators (BAGO) trade body released a survey which showed 43% of vulnerable respondents admitted to gambling on an unlicensed site in the past three months.

The association estimated 16% of total player spending is directed towards the unlicensed market.

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