Belgium: Gaming Commission calls for blacklisting of free gambling apps

Patrick Van Eecke and Antoon Dierick (DLA Piper, Brussels) discuss the Belgian Gaming Commission’s call for restricting the offering of free gambling apps.

By Patrick Van Eecke and Antoon Dierick

In today’s Belgian national media, the Belgian Gaming Commission has pleaded to restrict the offering of free gambling applications (“apps”) which allow persons to gamble for free on their mobile device. The Commission for example refers to free blackjack and poker games. According to the Gaming Commission, such free apps lower the bar for persons to participate in paying gambling services, which is deemed problematic in case the operator of the application does not verify the participant’s age. The Commission’s concerns thus seem primarily to be directed towards participation by minors. More specifically, the Commission asks for a blacklist to be adopted containing gambling apps, the offering of which is prohibited towards minors and to agree on the integration of age verification tools with the industry. The BGC thus seems to wish to repeat its already well-known blacklisting efforts, but applied this time to operators offering gambling apps (including several major app stores).

However, the call by the Gaming Commission is noteworthy, as Belgian regulations on games of chance (encompassing traditional casino and arcade games next to betting activities) only apply to games where participants need to make a stake in order to participate. In other words, free games of chance do not fall under the ambit of the Belgian Games of Chance Act. In case the user of the gambling app needs to pay for certain app upgrades, but does not have to make a stake to participate in the game itself, this game will likely not be qualified as a regulated game of chance.

In this sense, taking action against such applications seems to surpass the Commission’s regulatory competences as the Commission is competent only for regulating games of chance falling under the Games of Chance Act. This is probably also why the Commission has publicly appealed to other government institutions (e.g. those competent for the well-being of children) to take initiatives in this respect.

We will of course further report on any further developments on this issue, possibly from government institutions in Belgium or from other stakeholders in the industry.

For more information, please contact patrick.van.eecke@dlapiper.com or antoon.dierick@dlapiper.com