Belgium’s BGC calls for Royal Decree on betting in newspaper vendors

The Belgian Gambling Commission (BGC) has recommended that the country’s government issue a Royal Decree relating to requirements for newspaper shops offering licenced sports betting services.

Concerning Article 42 of the Law of 28 November 2021, a section of the legislation aimed at making justice ‘more humane, faster and firmer, the BGC has called for “strictly defined sideline activity”, referring to operators licensed to provide sports betting in newspaper outlets.

The regulator’s primary motivation for calling for a stricter definition of such activity, which would limit the ability of the country’s network of newspaper outlets to offer wagering, is player protection by limiting the wider availability of betting.

Supporting its statement, the BGC has asserted that there are a number of retailers in Belgium which operate under the name of a newsagent but which primarily derive their income from the provision of sports betting, as well as sales of lottery tickets, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and tobacco products – labelled by the regulator as ‘fake bookstores’.

In the absence of a clear definition of what may or may not be considered a newspaper outlet eligible to take bets, the BGC argued, the regulator is unable to perform the desired controls or implement a coherent policy on licence management.

Under the BGC’s proposals, the offering of bets in newsagents stores would only be conducted during certain hours and vendors licensed to offer sports betting pay a fee taken from a ‘certain percentage form the sale of press articles’.

An additional recommendation would see the number of outlets eligible to offer such products limited to those that have a “large supply of up to date through contract with a press distributor”.

Lastly, although calling on the government to limit the scope of betting via newspaper traders, the regulator has also argued that authorities should take into consideration the ‘legitimate interests’ of the private sports wagering market and not allow the National Lottery’s monopoly to ‘de facto’ extend to betting.

Should the BGC’s guidance be followed by the Belgian government, then the implementation of Article 42 will be delayed until the regulators recommendations concerning newspaper outlet sports wagering are incorporated into the legislation.

“The BGC once again urges the Government to ensure that the new rules are clearly formulated so that they can be efficiently monitored, both when a licence is granted/renewed and during on-site inspections,” the BGC explained.

“Finally, the BGC asks the Government and the Parliament to urgently proceed with a legislative initiative postponing the entry into force of Article 42 of the Act of 28 November 2021 until when the Royal Decree is adopted.”