Tucked away bordering France, the Netherlands and Germany, is Belgium. The home of Tintin, The Smurfs, Trappist beers, chocolate, lace and diamonds, this small Western European country is notable for its restrictive gambling laws, which tend to favour local establishments over licensed European rivals. If you’re located in Belgium, or fancy playing at a Belgian online casino site, there are a few things you should know…
Is Online Gambling Legal in Belgium?
Online gambling is legal in the country, provided you are aged 21 or over. Since the Belgian gambling act was passed in 2011, the state has regulated the online casino gaming world. Even so, rules are strict in terms of where and when you can bet on games. There are several classes of licenses which can be snapped up by casino operators, with each permit tier determining just what types of games a provider can offer, and on what platform; for instance, high-street bookies, online or land-based casinos.
Generally speaking, an online casino can only operate if it has a physical land-based casino in the country. Moreover, there can only be so many licenses in operation at any one time. This, as you might imagine, makes it exceptionally difficult for any gambling operators which are located outside of the country to obtain a license to offer their services to Belgian players. To get around this problem, many offshore casinos (a site which does not has a physical presence in Belgium or a Belgian license) may partner with local brick and mortar casinos to be able to offer their services to players in the country. Even this hasn’t proven entirely effective, though, with the Belgian authorities cracking down on the habit.
Belgium may be the home of the European Union, but that hasn’t stopped them flouting EU laws regarding open markets and competition when it comes to online gambling.
Belgian Online Casinos
What is a Belgian online casino then? Put simply, any Belgian online casino must, as we have said, have a physical gambling hall or casino located in the country. Moreover, they must also be a Belgian company, save for a few exceptions, such as Ladbrokes which operate high-street bookies in the country. The restrictiveness of Belgian casinos only works one-way, though. While Belgian citizens “must” play at a casino licensed in the country, foreign players are invited to join their sites, too.
A Belgian casino will offer gameplay in French and Dutch (Flemish) but will also commonly offer German as well as English language gaming. Belgian casinos almost always use the euro currency, and many of the payment methods that are open to players will be ones which are popular in the country. Such options include MisterCash and Bancontact, as well as a host of Belgian banks, including ING.
Many of the games which appear at such casinos will be developed by local Belgian software providers, although a few big fish have also jumped in to offer games at such sites. The games themselves are quite bizarre. Dice games (sometimes known as dice slots) are popular, and they require a lower-tier license than full-on slot games. Roulette and card games can also be commonly found at this country’s online casinos.
Offshore Casino Sites for Belgian Players
For foreign casino sites, it is quite a different story. The Belgian gambling commission actively hunts down offshore casinos which are trying to provide games and services to players in the country. Hefty fines are in place to punish said sites, and as a result of this, many operators choose not to make their websites accessible to Belgian players.
Those offshore casinos which do try and offer their services to Belgian casino players may still have difficulties. The Belgian Government has instructed all ISPs (internet service providers) in the country to blacklist and shut out access to any major casinos they come across which aren’t licensed in the state. This means that your average Belgian resident is going to have a tough time playing at such casinos. A VPN (virtual private network) may be used to circumvent these geo-blocks, but this has been tested with just limited results. The Belgian ISPs are often ahead of the game.
To date, the gambling authorities in Belgium have not prosecuted any player for enjoying games at a casino which is not licensed in the nation. Their priority is punishing the casino operators themselves. However, the warning page which pops up when you do try and visit an offshore site bears the police’s logo, and that is often more than off-putting enough for players to give up their quest and settle on a Belgian licensed gambling portal instead.
Is Anything Likely to Change in the Future?
Probably not. The fact that the Belgian gaming authorities have come down hard on offshore sites, even going as far as blacklisted them and demanding the ISPs stop access to them, tells you all you need to know.
Even though the country is in breach of EU law and undercuts the single market by ensuring that only Belgian license casinos are accessible, the EU doesn’t seem too bothered to deal with the issue. Given that the Belgian Government can essentially force its citizens to play in their casinos (which is advantageous for tax reasons if nothing else), but why would they implement any changes to the system if they aren’t forced to?
Top Belgian Casino Sites
The ISP blocks on offshore casinos aren’t 100% effective, and since there is no punishment for playing at casinos which cater to Belgians from outside the country, it may be worth a look. The array of games is often far greater at such sites. Notable sites which have escaped ISP blocks include Cleopatra, Karamba, Casino Cruise, Spin and Win, and Casino RedKings.
There are, of course, a few Belgian licensed casinos which offer decent gameplay experiences. However, they tend to have a much smaller collection of games, although if you want to ensure that your site isn’t going to end up blacklisted, these may be the way to go.