Kenya is set to re-regulate its gambling industry as it awaits parliamentary approval of the Gambling Control Bill 2023.

This proposed legislation aims to revamp regulations, introduce stricter oversight, and enhance player protection measures across the nation.

Central to this bill is the establishment of a new Gambling Regulatory Authority (GRA) intended to replace the current Betting, Control, and Licensing Board (BCLB).

If passed, the GRA will wield considerable authority in licensing, renewals, suspensions, and revocations within the gambling sector, aiming to bolster safeguards and ensure compliance with wider industry standards.

The proposed reforms encompass various measures, including a prohibition on registering minors for any online gaming, lottery, or betting activities. 

Additionally, the bill advocates for limitations on gambling advertisements on TV and radio, restricting them to the hours between 6am and 10pm.

To deter unlicensed operations, the bill proposes substantial penalties. For example, initial violations could result in fines of up to KES3m (€18,413) or a three-year prison term.

Repeat offenders could face increased penalties of KES5m (€30,703) and up to five years in prison.

Meanwhile, promoters of unlicensed gambling might incur fines of KES1m (€6,141), or a one-year prison term.

Tax rules 

The legislation also proposes a 15% tax on gross gambling revenue, coupled with a monthly gambling levy determined by Kenya’s 47 counties. 

Kenya’s existing tax framework encompasses a 15% levy on GGR, a 30% corporate tax on profits, a 12.5% sales tax on each bet placed, and a 20% withholding tax on winnings disbursed to players

In a recent Bloomberg article, betPawa founder Kresten Buch voiced concerns about the impact of taxation, referring to it as the industry’s most significant challenge. 

While the taxes align somewhat with European standards, Buch warned the heavy burden on players could drive legitimate operators away, paving the way for less reputable companies that disregard regulatory norms.

Foreign shareholding 

The bill specifies that licensed operations must have a minimum of 30% shareholding held by Kenyan citizens, allowing foreign nationals to possess up to 70%. 

This marks a notable departure from the previous rule, which demanded a minimum Kenyan shareholding of 49%.

The new law also obligates gambling entities to conduct transactions solely through Kenyan-registered banks and requires an insurance security bond or bank guarantee to cover liabilities arising from licensed gambling activities.

In total, casinos will be required to deposit KES20m (€122,674), while online sports betting and lotteries must deposit KES200m (€1.2m). 

Minimum stake 

Moreover, the legislation proposes a minimum stake of KES20 (€0.12) for online gambling. understands that this measure aims to discourage individuals with lower incomes from gambling and betting.

Moreover, the authority recommends that a yet to be determined percentage of every bet placed will be set aside as savings for the customer.

Some quarters in the industry believe that this measure, in addition to the tax on winnings, will further diminish the size of each bet and could encourage players to seek out unregulated options.

Operators caught allowing bets below the minimum threshold could face severe penalties of not less than KES5m (€32,880), or even imprisonment for up to six years.

Next steps

The bill was introduced by National Assembly majority leader Kimani Ichung’wah. While this means the bill’s passage seems likely, the exact timeline for parliamentary approval remains uncertain. 

Following parliament’s endorsement, the bill will proceed for the president’s signature, marking a crucial step before implementation.

Kenya’s move towards regulatory reform coincides with a notable surge in online gambling activities.

According to Kenya’s Business Daily, Kenyans collectively wagered KES88.5bn in the 12 months to June 2023. 

This figure was based on the KES6.64bn collected by the Kenya Revenue Authority, which was subject to a 7.5% tax.

Mor, Mor, Mor, how do you like it?

Following the release of its H1 financial results this week, Playtech CEO Mor Weizer spoke to the Evening Standard to express some frustrations about how his company is perceived.

The business has established a strong focus on regulated markets, he said (although some revenue still comes from grey markets in Latam and other regions), while some of its competitors are taking business from black markets where gambling is specifically outlawed.

Weizer pointed out that Playtech’s regulated revenue saw double-digit growth in H1, but said it was “frustrating” to be compared to companies that continue to operate in black markets.

“It is less helpful when they operate in black markets and use that money to penetrate regulated markets. We know some that operate in sanctioned markets, countries on the US sanctions list,” he suggested.

“It is frustrating to see people compare us to public companies that are growing very quickly. But they are growing in unregulated markets and shrinking in regulated markets. We are growing in regulated markets.”

Without mentioning any specific rivals, Weizer said that some suppliers have seen astronomical growth in recent years despite having evolved to generate a declining share of revenue from regulated markets.

Playtech shares trade at a lower multiple than many of its rivals listed outside London, the article points out, but Weizer suggests that comes down to the high level of knowledge of UK-based investors.

“Shareholders in the UK are very sophisticated and are very conscious of regulated activity, regulated markets, strict regulated environments,” he said.

If that’s the case, does this mean that some of Playtech’s rivals are currently overvalued? Time will tell.

Where’s the evidence?

The Guardian this week turned its spotlight on a “retreat” from the UK government on gambling advertising.

UK lawmakers have come under fire for claiming that a decision to step back from a ban on gambling advertising was driven by a lack of evidence that it leads to harm among consumers.

“We have very much gone on the evidence [and] there’s little evidence that exposure to advertising alone causes people to enter into gambling harm,” said Stuart Andrew, the minister for sport, gambling and civil society, earlier this week.

“Once we have the research if there’s more evidence that proves advertising is causing harm then we will look at that.”

That assessment has been disputed by at least one expert on gambling harm, as consultant psychologist Dr Matt Gaskell suggested: “The evidence is clear that gambling advertising drives consumption, which increases harm.

“This is well known internationally, and as a result many European countries have taken action to protect their communities with stringent advertising curbs. 

“Our children, young people, and those experiencing harm or in recovery continue to be exposed to ubiquitous gambling advertising, and the government have chosen to expose them to harm.”

Such differences in opinion – alongside pressure from broadcasters which rely on the revenue from gambling advertising – have led to the creation of “a very difficult debate at times,” Andrew acknowledged.

And there is also the not inconsiderable matter of a lack of quality evidence pointing one way or the other.

A shortage of funding for research into the matter has not helped deliver conclusive evidence in either direction, The Guardian suggested.

A new system of research funding is set to come into play in 2024, Andrew said, which should allow the government 

As is so often the case, the best answer to these questions, between those offered up by gambling firms and those provided by prohibitionists, likely lies somewhere in the middle.

Wynn settles sexual harassment case 

The Las Vegas Review-Journal this week gave us an update on a sexual harassment case which has plagued Wynn Resorts since 2019.

Attorneys representing the casino operator and nine anonymous women who filed the sexual harassment case have now reached an undisclosed settlement, according to US District Court documents.

The lawyers have now requested the action be dismissed, and that a status check settlement conference be scheduled within two months.

All parties have remained tight lipped on the details of the settlement, as Wynn said it would not make a comment and the nine women’s attorneys could not be reached for comment.

Each of the women made specific allegations regarding sexual harassment by former Wynn CEO Steve Wynn, while they were working as manicurists and makeup artists in the company’s salons.

Steve Wynn has repeatedly claimed that he has never harassed or sexually assaulted anyone.

In court filings, however, the women “gave graphic descriptions of how Steve Wynn asked personal questions of a sexual nature, forced them to massage him near his genital area and required them to provide services to him in secluded areas.”

The case was initially filed in 2019, a year after the former CEO left the business following public allegations made in a 2018 Wall Street Journal article.

Bookmakers have cautioned that Ireland’s proposed ban on gambling advertising could block Premier League football and other live sports from being broadcast in the country.

Ireland is currently in the midst of updating its gambling legislation, with the Gambling Regulation Bill currently being debated in its parliament.

However, as first reported by the Irish Times, the Irish Bookmakers’ Association (IBA) raised concerns over a provision that would ban gambling advertising between 5:30am and 9:30pm to protect children and young people from exposure to gambling.

They argued that the ban, if not phrased correctly, could inadvertently block live sports broadcasts from other countries, including English Premier League football, where gambling companies are frequently displayed through advertising and sponsorship.

The bookmakers have written to Ireland’s Minister for Justice Helen McEntee and Minister of State James Browne, emphasising that the broadly drafted nature of the provision is causing confusion while urging for clarifications to be made.

The provision reads: “A person shall not knowingly advertise, or cause another person to advertise, a relevant gambling activity on television, radio or an on-demand audiovisual media service between the hours of 5:30am and 9:30pm.”

The IBA highlights Premier League football as an example, but suggested the provision could also impact broadcasts of prominent horse racing events such as the Cheltenham and Aintree festivals, or any overseas events where betting ads are visible to viewers.

Further concerns

The Gambling Regulation Bill aims to establish a new licensing regime and create a new agency, the Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland, to oversee the industry.

The IBA, while supportive of the bill, also cautioned that other sections, as currently formulated, may not provide optimal consumer protection and could lead to future legal challenges.

They specifically highlight concerns about the definition of inducements to gamble and provisions related to the closure of inactive online betting accounts, maximum stakes, and payouts.

The association stressed the importance of a clear and unambiguous legislative framework with robust consumer protections.

They acknowledged the time pressure faced by the Department of Justice to advance the bill before the summer recess, but urged officials to address the issues raised by all stakeholders before final passage.

Germany’s GGL has found itself at the centre of a legal storm as operators challenge certain aspects of the country’s gambling regulations.

The GGL stated that it was facing “a large number of lawsuits” primarily related to advertising and player protection provisions from operators.

However, recent rulings have strengthened the existing player protection measures, according to the regulator.

The Higher Administrative Court of Saxony-Anhalt revised the decisions made by the Administrative Court of Halle in five provisional legal protection cases after the GGL appealed, largely upholding GGL’s guidelines.

The court ruled that the bans on infomercials, advertising for free-to-play online casino games and virtual slot machines, influencer marketing, advertising by streamers, and affiliate marketing on sites that also promote unlicensed firms.

The court determined that these regulations were necessary to fulfil the objectives of the State Treaty on Gambling, which include combating addiction risks and protecting minors.

Complete ban disproportionate

However, the court also viewed the complete ban on advertising in public spaces, such as billboards, advertising columns, and public transport vehicles, disproportionate.

The court suggested that time restrictions, especially for digitally targeted outdoor advertising, could effectively protect minors.

Additionally, the court deemed it likely inappropriate to prohibit advertising at public film events before 9pm, specifically if the movies are exclusively for adults with an age restriction of 18 years.

In a separate ruling, the Administrative Court of Halle rejected the application of a Malta-based lottery company against the prohibition of unauthorised public gambling in Germany in an urgent legal protection procedure filed earlier in June.

According to the court, the prohibition was rightly issued because the applicant had offered gambling in Germany without the required licence.

The lottery business had already submitted two applications, both of which were rejected.

Media outlet The Guardian has implemented a global ban on gambling advertising across all of its assets, with the exception of lottery advertising.

The new policy implemented today (15 June) will apply to all online ads on The Guardian’s website, app, audio, video, and newsletters, as well as print ads in the Guardian and Observer newspapers and Guardian Weekly magazine.

Why now?

In a column penned in the paper today, Guardian chief executive Anna Bateson said the company “is committed to responsible advertising practices that will have a positive impact on society.”

Bateson expressed concern over the increasing prevalence of gambling, as the development of the online and mobile sector “has placed high stakes gambling machines in almost every pocket.”

That creates a greater risk of gambling addiction, she added, while highlighting studies that demonstrate correlations between exposure to gambling advertising and increased intentions to engage in regular gambling.

Following the publication of the UK’s Gambling Act review, which The Guardian said “fell short of any meaningful action on gambling advertising,” the company is taking matters into its own hands with its decision to ban all gambling ads across its platforms.

Not opposed to gambling

While The Guardian said the blanket ban was the right thing to do, Bateson clarified that the position is not an explicitly ‘anti-gambling’ one.

“We understand and respect that millions of our readers, including our reporters and staff, are passionate sports fans who may occasionally choose to engage in gambling as part of their sporting experience,” she wrote.

“It is a matter of personal freedom, and we have no issue with that. Our concern lies with the pervasive nature of retargeted digital advertisements that trap a portion of sports fans in an addictive cycle. 

“We believe we can offer a place for sport fans all over the world to enjoy world-class sports journalism in an environment free from advertising pushing betting, wagering or online casinos.”
Guardian Media Group CEO Anna Bateson

“By taking a stand against gambling advertising, we believe we can offer a place for sport fans all over the world to enjoy world-class sports journalism in an environment free from advertising pushing betting, wagering or online casinos.”

Further, the company said that lottery advertising will still be allowed, as such products “could have social benefits through raising money for good causes,” while they also typically involve “non-instantaneous draws,” meaning the risk to consumers is lower than with other gambling products.

Further context

The Guardian is not alone in its stance towards gambling advertising.

Many European countries such as The Netherlands, Belgium and Spain have already moved towards tough restrictions or outright bans on gambling advertising.

In the UK, Premier League football clubs will have until the beginning of the 2026/27 season to drop any front-of-shirt sponsorships by gambling firms.

Meanwhile, the conversation around gambling advertising continues to gain traction in the mainstream media.

TalkSport commentator Clive Tyldesley recently resigned from his position due to his own discomfort with having to promote bookmakers and their odds during matches.

The Guardian had already implemented a ban on adverts from fossil fuel companies in 2020.

Australia’s online gambling laws have been identified as some of the weakest in the world, according to a recent analysis of global regulatory regimes conducted by the Alliance for Gambling Reform (The Alliance).

Australia’s status as an “international laggard on regulating online gambling is allowing the gambling industry to ‘groom’ young people through the gamification of gambling”, the study concluded.

The Alliance for Gambling Reform was established in 2015 as a national advocacy organisation which works to prevent and minimise gambling-related harm.

The organisation’s findings come as a parliamentary committee focused on online gambling in Australia is due to make its recommendations later this month.

In April, the government already revealed plans to ban gambling with credit cards as part of its ongoing efforts to reduce gambling harm.

This measure accompanies earlier changes to responsible gambling slogans and the introduction of the national self-exclusion register, BetStop.

Inadequate response

However, the advocacy group argued that while other countries have implemented stringent measures such as banning gambling ads across all media platforms, Australia’s response had been inadequate.

“While Australia dithers on banning sports gambling ads an hour before and after a game, many countries across Europe and Asia have simply banned all gambling advertisements in traditional media and online,” Carol Bennett, chief executive of the Alliance, said.

Bennett went on to say that it is clear that in Australia online gambling has evolved so rapidly that research, policy, regulation and governments have not been able to adapt, address or prevent the exponential growth in gambling harm.

She said it was damning that governments did not invest in independent harm reduction bodies so there is no challenge to their ‘light touch gambling policy and regulation’.

“Most dangerously this is allowing a convergence between gambling and gaming that is targeted at young people. Gambling-like features are now embedded in gaming and most have no age restrictions,” she said.

Policy recommendations

To combat this situation, the Alliance called on the Australian government to take immediate action.

Their recommendations include restricting online gambling exposure to children and young people, banning the broadcasting of all gambling advertisements, and prohibiting all forms of online promotion, advertising, and inducements.

The organisation also emphasised the need for increased enforcement actions against companies breaching these restrictions.

Moreover, the paper highlights the necessity of establishing a robust and well-funded national gambling regulator, as well as the creation of an online gambling ombudsman.

The Alliance for Gambling Reform Online Gambling policy paper can be accessed here.

With regulatory fines on the rise amid a public backlash, Sonja Lindenberg wonders what the future holds for the iGaming industry’s advertising practices.

In recent weeks, the regulation, or rather restriction, of gambling advertisements has been a point of much discussion and has been prominently featured in mainstream media.

Looking back, we can draw parallels between the tobacco advertising era and today’s situation with gambling advertising.

Intensive lobbying

In the heydays of tobacco advertising, cigarette companies sponsored game shows and cartoons, and ads featured endorsements from doctors, dentists, and celebrities.

The “Marlboro Man” made smoking cool and sexy, and Camel cigarettes ran countless campaigns with “Joe Camel”, a toy mascot that studies later found was just as familiar to six-year-olds as Mickey Mouse.

Big tobacco was also seen as the gold standard for special-interest lobbying with its effective political campaigns and lobbyists.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the lobby called into question each medical and scientific finding regarding the health risks of tobacco.

However, as the health risks of smoking became more visible, big tobacco’s lobbying power dwindled, and smoking ads were eventually banned in many countries.

Similarly, gambling companies, like tobacco companies before them, proclaim their efforts at self-regulation by providing embedded warnings to “gamble responsibly.”

However, unlike Big Tobacco, which invested billions in lobbying efforts and fought against advertising bans for decades (incidentally, none of the WHO countries have banned all forms of tobacco advertising and sponsorship), the gambling industry seems to be realising that the tide is turning against the saturation of gambling advertising, particularly in sports.

Recent moves by Entain and Tabcorp in Australia to limit gambling advertising due to growing opposition from the public suggest that the industry is now taking steps to address this issue.

However, it’s not just Australia where this conversation is happening – similar discussions are taking place in other countries.

The trend is clear

It’s needless to enumerate the situation in every country regarding advertising policies.

The trend in recent times has become quite evident. So what can the industry do?

If there is still something to be won and policy action can be halted, the industry should prioritise alignment over individual company agendas.

Major and minor operators should work together to find common ground and present a unified message.

The iGaming industry is still relatively young, and immature industries like this often attract people focused on quick returns who don’t put much effort into building up the industry’s reputation and credibility.

This is evidenced by the long list of fines that regulators have recently imposed for illegal advertising. However, cohesive action is now needed more than ever before.

Moreover, by providing alternative solutions to poor policies and agreeing to beneficial policy recommendations, the industry can avoid unnecessary interference and strengthen its credibility on important issues.

For instance, instead of opposing constraints on advertising bonuses and promotions, the industry can propose increased transparency and less fine print in these promotions.

This kind of collaboration with regulators could help find a compromise that allows for limited advertising while still protecting consumers and promoting responsible gambling.

Forced to innovate

Perhaps we have already reached the point of no return where the bad practices of some have made it impossible for regulators not to take action.

With advertising bans looming, online gambling companies are being forced to consider new ways to attract customers and remain profitable.

This could include a greater emphasis on customer loyalty and retention, as well as improving the user experience of their platforms.

Besides, if marketing spend was curtailed, imagine how much cash would suddenly become available for product innovation, which is something the industry has struggled with for years.

More than 50% of Brits and Germans support a complete ban on gambling advertising according to separate surveys on the topic.

A representative survey commissioned by Germany’s drug and addiction commissioner Burkhard Blienert revealed that 57% of respondents are in favour of a general advertising ban on gambling.

The survey results, which were made available to German news organisation Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland, also indicate that 66% believe that sponsorship by sports betting firms should be banned in football.

Additionally, 70% of those surveyed would like to see further advertising restrictions for sports betting across both television and online.

Blienert stated that advertising for gambling, alcohol, and tobacco is viewed much more critically today than it was 10 or 15 years ago, and that there have been significant changes in the attitudes of the population.

The SPD politician emphasised the need for a serious debate in politics about how much advertising for alcohol, tobacco, and gambling is acceptable and desirable.

Similar findings in the UK

Meanwhile, similar results were found in surveys conducted in the UK.

According to a poll of 1,009 adults conducted by Survation and published in the Guardian, 52% of respondents supported a ban on all gambling advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

Moreover, nearly two-thirds wanted new limits on online stakes, while 68% of respondents thought under-18s should not be exposed to gambling advertising.

In addition, 64% supported affordability checks for those wanting to bet more than £100 month, and 60% saw gambling as a danger to family life.

GwL Strategy Director @WillProchaska said:

“This poll displays the strength of public sentiment on gambling advertising.

“If gambling reforms fail to significantly restrict gambling advertising, they’ll be woefully out of step with a public that expects action.”

— Gambling with Lives (@GambleWithLives) April 23, 2023

Premier League clubs recently voted to remove gambling companies from the fronts of football shirts, although campaigners have argued this doesn’t go far enough.

A recent YouGov poll of 1,000 football fans found that 77% supported the ban on gambling front-of-shirt deals.

However, 56% would like to see the ban extended to advertising on pitch-side hoardings, and 42% want betting firms permanently removed from shirt sleeves.

Gambling brands and logos will still be allowed to appear on shirts after the 2026/27 season, but not on the front of shirts.

The majority of fans also believe that gambling companies should be barred from sponsoring leagues or cup competitions. Sky Bet is the current title sponsor of the three-tiered, 72-club English Football League (EFL).

The same poll revealed that fans see gambling sponsors as less appropriate than alcohol or crypto sponsors.

Three-quarters, or 77%, of fans describe betting companies as inappropriate sponsors for football teams.

UK ministers are expected to reject a blanket ban on gambling advertising in a white paper that is rumoured to be published this week.

Advertising opponents are hoping that the white paper will include measures such as a statutory levy on gambling firms to fund research and treatment for addicts, as well as setting maximum stakes for online slots games, according to the Guardian.

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has meanwhile pledged an additional £110m of funding over four years for research, education, and treatment services to tackle gambling harm, with a spokesperson endorsing mandatory contributions as long as funds are distributed effectively and independently.

“We strongly support the gambling review, but any changes introduced by the Government must not drive gamblers towards the growing unsafe, unregulated black market online, where billions of pounds are being staked,” the spokesperson said.

Black market concerns

Gambling and sports betting experts in both Germany and the UK have expressed their concerns about the potential consequences of imposing marketing restrictions and advertising bans.

They argue that such measures could inadvertently drive consumers towards unregulated and illegal gambling activities, creating a thriving black market.

Luka Andric, CEO of the German Sports Betting Association (DSWV), recently highlighted this issue, stating that “advertising is used to guide all those who are already interested in sports betting towards the state-controlled, and thus safe, market”.

The trend to prohibit gambling advertising is gaining momentum across Europe.

The Netherlands and Belgium have also approved bans that will be rolled out over the coming years.

In addition, other countries such as Ireland, Romania and more recently, Estonia, are also considering implementing similar advertising restrictions.

The German Sports Betting Association (DSWV) has called for an overhaul of Germany’s current gambling regulations, citing their stringent nature as a major contributor to the rise of illegal offshore gambling.

Due to the strict regulations, legal providers are struggling to keep up with demand for attractive sports betting products, leaving consumers to seek out unregulated alternatives, the DSWV warned.

Urgent action is needed to revise these regulations and prevent the growth of the black market, according to the DSWV.

The DSWV stated there was a massive decline in the regulated market in 2022. Gaming stakes dropped from €9.4bn in 2021 to around €8.2bn last year, despite the World Cup.

State revenues from sports betting tax were also correspondingly lower than in the previous year, at €433m.

The DSWV stated that the disappointing World Cup and Germany’s early exit only contributed to a small extent to the overall decline in gaming stakes.

Instead, the main reason for the market decline can be found in the restrictive regulations in Germany. The association stressed that customers are still gambling, but are turning to unregulated options.

DSWV President Mathias Dahms (pictured) commented: “For most customers, whether a provider has a permit from Germany is secondary. They are looking for the most comprehensive offer, the best odds, uncomplicated payment processes and interesting bonuses. That’s where the legal offers have a hard time.”

Rise in unregulated websites

In February 2023, the DSWV conducted a market study and discovered a 65% increase in active illegal gambling and sports betting offers compared to the previous year.

Among the 1,500 websites checked without a German licence, 840 illegal websites were accessible to German players, and 723 of these sites allowed account registration.

Germany’s whitelist of approved sports betting providers currently features 31 companies, and they face difficulties due to excessive regulation, the DSWV said.

DSWV CEO Luka Andric: “Illegal providers from third countries do not care about German regulations, and many deliberately advertise on the internet and allow blocked players to play.”

Additionally, there are still too many unauthorised betting opportunities in betting shops, with some rejected providers continuing to operate locally and online, the DSWV claimed.

“Here, too, the local authorities must step up controls and take action,” the DSWV said.

In addition, the DSWV pointed out that the enforcement measures of the German gambling regulator, the GGL, against the black market are not effective, as evidenced by the recent curbing of IP blocking by three court rulings.

Alternative approaches are needed, including strengthening the legal market by providing attractive and broad offers and re-evaluating strict advertising and offering restrictions.

Ad bans benefit black market

The DSWV further stated that marketing restrictions and advertising bans only benefit the black market.

“Advertising is used to guide all those who are already interested in sports betting towards the state-controlled, and thus safe, market,” said DSWV CEO Luka Andric.

He added that providers must meet numerous player protection criteria to obtain a sports betting licence in Germany.

“Illegal providers from third countries do not care about German regulations, and many deliberately advertise on the internet and allow blocked players to play.

“This type of advertising needs to be urgently prevented, and the advertising possibilities of legal providers need to be strengthened,” he concluded.

Yesterday (9 March), Entain CFO Rob Wood described Germany as a very challenging market for compliant operators.

In 2022, Germany accounted for just 5% of Entain’s online net gaming revenue (NGR), compared to 13% two years ago.

Belgium’s cabinet has approved a comprehensive ban on gambling advertising that will roll out in stages over the next five years.

This was first reported by Belgian news outlet Het Laatste Nieuws.

The move is aimed at curbing problem gambling and protecting vulnerable individuals, particularly minors.

Three stages

As of 1 July 2023, gambling advertising on TV, radio, classifieds, and video advertising will be prohibited.

This will be followed by a ban on gambling advertising in football stadiums from 1 January 2025.

Under this ban, shirt sponsorship will be allowed, but only with the logo and name of the sponsor, without a slogan and not on the front.

The final phase of the ban will come into effect on 1 January 2028, when a total ban on gambling advertising will be implemented, including on shirts.

Belgium’s Minister of Justice, Vincent Van Quickenborne, welcomed the decision, saying it was an important step in promoting responsible gambling and protecting vulnerable individuals from the dangers of problem gambling.

Last year, in a LinkedIn post, he referred to gambling providers as the “gambling mafia” and claimed that the upcoming advertising ban would bring an end to the “devastating tsunami of gambling advertising”.

However, according to the president of the Francophone liberal MR party Georges-Louis Bouchez, who previously expressed strong opposition to the impending ban, the act has not yet been finalised and there might still be changes.

Important revenue

A recent report by Deloitte on professional football in Belgium found the gambling industry contributed 12.7% of the total €79.3m in sponsorship revenue for the 2020-2021 season.

This translates to over €10m in income for Belgian professional clubs, highlighting the significant role played by the gambling industry in supporting the financial stability of the league.

Belgium’s top division football league, or Pro League, boasts 18 teams, 16 of which are sponsored by gambling companies, including some of the most prominent clubs in the league.

Club Brugge, for instance, features Unibet as its main and shirt sponsor, while betFIRST sponsors Antwerp. Circus sponsors both AA Gent and Standard Liege.

Just two top-level football clubs don’t have sponsorship deals with gambling operators: KAS Eupen, a Qatari-owned club that has abstained for religious reasons, and Westerlo, which is owned by Turkish owner Otkay Ercan.

Cycling will also be affected by the impending ban. The Belgian cycling team Bingoal-WB estimates that it will see 30% of its income evaporate if a gambling company is no longer allowed to act as a sponsor.

Difficult conditions

Belgium has become a challenging market for many online gambling operators due to increased regulatory restrictions.

Last October, the country introduced new rules that require Belgium-licensed online gambling operators to adhere to a weekly player deposit limit of €200.

Kindred recently reported a 15% revenue dip in Belgium. CEO Henrik Tjärnström said Kindred had suffered from being a  market leader in Belgium after the new deposit limits had spread customers across more operators.

The move to prohibit gambling advertising is part of a wider trend across Europe. Several other countries are also considering similar bans.

Picture courtesy of Photo News and the Royal Antwerp FC official website.