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.