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Kevin Smith

Monopoly in Store for I-Gaming in Belgium

23 May 2002

If a proposed law passes in Belgium, the country's national lottery will gain a monopoly on all interactive gaming conducted in the country.

The Belgian Parliament has proposed a change in the National Lottery Act that would grant a monopoly to the National Lottery for conducting gambling business via the Internet. The National Lottery would control all forms of gambling, from sports betting and casino gaming to lotteries and bingo.

The intention of the change, according to Parliament officials, is to control organized crime and protect the public from unscrupulous operators.

But that isn't sitting well with most Belgian operators. Ewout Keuleers, a Belgian lawyer who follows the interactive gaming industry, said many operators aren't pleased with the decision to nudge them out of the industry and expects them to take action within the 60-day time limit permitted by Belgian law.

Operators do find themselves in an awkward position though. Part of the new act allows for existing companies to cooperate with the National Lottery and become licensees of any system they would bring to the Internet. Keuleers feels that some operators are afraid to turn to the courts and fight the monopoly for fear that they would be left out of any system the National Lottery would institute in the future.

He said operators can turn to the Belgian courts and ask for a ruling on the amendment, but must take that action within 60 days or the change will become part of the law. Although no details were available, Keuleers said it would be very surprising if no entity introduces a procedure before the Arbitration Court, which acts as Belgium's constitutional court.

The amendment grants the monopoly via a change to article seven of the National Lottery Act, a provision that covers all online games "delivered" to the public by means of "information society tools."

Per Belgian parliamentary rules, the act was published in the official State Monitor May 5, 2002 and will come into force the day that a Royal Decree is published in the State Monitor. Keuleers said government officials have not indicated when the decree would be published, but added that operators would be informed of the date in advance.

Monopoly in Store for I-Gaming in Belgium is republished from
Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith