Online sports betting in Belgium isn’t as popular as it once was. The Belgian Gambling Commission (BGC) recently announced a reduction in the number of licensed operators, highlighting a slide that has been occurring for the past few months.
Belgium’s gaming industry has been undergoing a number of changes over the past couple of years. Retail sports betting saw a major shake-up when the BGC began addressing what constituted a sportsbook last December.
The online segment has seen changes as well. At one point, there were 34 licensed operators. That number dropped to 31 last year. Now, the market only has 30 licensed online sportsbooks.
A Waning Market
From January 2011 to January 2020, up to 34 operators could receive an F1 license needed to conduct betting operations. Last year, through a royal decree and in response to a reduced market, that number dropped to 30.
That was for the licensing period that ended on July 31, 2022. This was a shortened window because of — — as the Belgian Official Gazette explains — “The political circumstances at the time.”
In accordance with the will of the legislators, the cap of licensed companies is set at 30. A new operator can only enter the market if one of the existing companies is removed.
At the end of that period, all operators had to renew their permits. This gave the BGC the opportunity to bring back nine-year licensing, meaning the current permits are valid until July 31, 2031.
Of these, Brussels is home to 13. Among these are Casinos Austria, Ladbrokes, and World Football Association. The city of Liège has five, including Bet777 and Bet90. Seven other cities have one or two, covering Unibet, Stanleybet, and more.
Attrition May Continue
Tightened restrictions on gaming could be the reason for the slowdown. A number of controls have been placed on the industry, resulting in weaker performance.
The implementation of a weekly deposit limit of €200 (US$200.52) is an effort to make gambling safer. However, some industry analysts predict that these limits will only increase participation in unregulated markets.
Some operators are already beginning to introduce the limit. But all of them will have to impose it by October 20. In addition, a complete ban on all gambling advertising is on the table, but is finding resistance.
As a European Union (EU) country, Belgium had to submit its proposal for the ban to the European Commission. This is so other EU countries have a chance to provide input. A week ago, the commission responded to concerns Malta introduced, possibly delaying the enforcement of the ban.
That could also give opponents of the measure an opportunity to strengthen their defense. The next week could be crucial, as the European Commission’s intervention only delayed the process until September 9.