1/5/10 – Despite grumbling from the European Commission on its restrictions of gambling services from other EU nations, it appears that the Belgian government is forging ahead with its plans for Belgian-exclusive online gambling regulation in 2010.
The current direction in which Belgian law is moving is strongly reminiscent of the successful Italian approach, which requires licensees to be based in the country and subject to its laws and taxes, with restrictions on what type and where players can find poker action.
This model has resulted in operators from other nations forming Italian partnerships and setting up dedicated Italian poker networks in order to satisfy local requirements and access a market that is burgeoning despite the restrictions imposed by Italian regulator AAMS.
The Belgian newspaper De Standaard reports that new regulations coming into force in 2010 will effectively "nationalise" the operations of online poker rooms and casinos by excluding outside operators from promoting to Belgians. Online poker rooms would have to set up a separate operation that would be licensed by the Belgian government and located within the country. And the availability of licenses would be kept to a minimum, favouring Belgian applicants.
Such an outcome would appear to fly in the face of a European Commission opinion in mid-2009 on the proposed Belgian law, in which the Commission advised that the restrictions envisaged by the Belgians on operators from fellow EU nations would conflict with EU principles on the free movement of goods and services.
However, with changes in the executive of the European Commission now imminent it is by no means certain that the principles will be upheld with equal vigour by the new EC management.
The trend by governments toward constraining online gambling within geographic national boundaries seeks to negate the cross-border and global nature of online gambling as it has developed so far, thanks to the powerful capabilities and global reach of the Internet. But such a political policy suits individual governments long frustrated by a system that transcends international and political boundaries – and taxation possibilities – in allowing players to compete at any time with their counterparts all over the world.
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