Sports Betting Market in Belgium Finds New Operator Limits

Sports Betting Market in Belgium Finds New Operator Limits

Posted on: August 30, 2022, 11:38h. 

Last updated on: August 30, 2022, 11:38h.

Online sports betting in Belgium isn’t as popular as it once was. The Belgian Gambling Commission (BGC) has announced a reduction in the number of licensed operators, highlighting a slide that has been occurring for the past few months.

St. Nicholas Church in Ghent, Belgium
People stroll by a fair and St. Nicholas Church in Ghent, Belgium. Belgium has reduced the number of licensed sports betting operators to 30. (Image: Unsplash)

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. However, the 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, the license needed to conduct betting operations. Last year, through a royal decree and in response to a reduced market, the number dropped to 30.

That was for the licensing period that ended on July 31 of this year. This was a shortened window due, as the Belgian Official Gazette explains, to “the political circumstances at the time.”

At the end of that period, all operators had to renew their permits. This also gave the BGC the opportunity to bring back the previous nine-year licensing, meaning the current permits are valid until July 31, 2031.

However, there aren’t as many legal operators in the market. Therefore, and “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.

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 for the industry have arrived and continue to arrive, already 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 have predicted 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.