December 13,2011 : Come January, internet censorship will be in force
Despite widespread criticism of its draconian and inequitable new online gambling regulatory regime, Belgium continues to press ahead with its plans, and come January 2012 internet service providers like Telenet, Belgacom, Base and Mobistar will be required by law to block internet gambling sites not licensed under Belgium’s discriminatory laws.
The Belgian Gaming Commission will be calling the shots, and, with the assistance of the Belgian police, has already provided ISPs with preliminary black lists of internet gambling sites which the Commission has identified as active in the EU nation but unlicensed under the new Belgian regulations.
The black list will apparently be regularly updated as "illegal" operators are identified, and a complementary – and presumably much shorter – white list is also being kept recording those sites which have Belgian Gaming Commission licensing and approval.
Current estimates are that some 30 to 40,000 Belgians indulge in online gambling on acceptable gambling websites; but three to four times this number probably play on foreign sites offering more competitive incentives.
By forcing local ISPs to block access to these sites the authorities clearly hope to steer players to Belgium-licensed operators.
The Gambling Commission has been open about its strategy for handling the enforcement drive, saying that it will target those illegal sites with the largest player bases first in its blocking endeavours.
The fact that the European Commission has been less than impressed with Belgium's licensing approach, and the draconian nature of interfering with the functioning of the internet, could result in litigation by gambling companies prepared to take the issue all the way to the European Court of Justice.