Belgium is one of the more troublesome European countries to play online casino games in. While online gambling is legal in the country, there are very strict rules about where you can play. Any attempt to play at a casino which is not authorised by the Belgian Gaming Commission is likely to be futile, as they operate a lengthy blacklist of casino sites. Even so, there are plenty of places where you can play your favourite games in the country.
Gambling laws in Belgium
Before 2011, Belgium didn’t particularly regulate their online gambling industry. To that end, seemingly anything and everything was kosher for gamblers. Since 2011, the Belgian Gaming Commission has cracked down hard on any domains which do not hold a valid Belgian license. The country charges rather excessive fees for said licences, and like many things in the country, there is an overly complex procedure for obtaining a license.
Belgian gambling licenses are divided up into multiple tiers, and operators must have the appropriate license for the types of games they wish to offer. It all leads to a very muddled and confusing place, and to that end (coupled with the high fees) many operators pulled out of the Belgian gambling market a few years ago.
A couple of big names have managed to stick it out, though, and they are doing remarkedly well in the Belgian gambling industry, although their face fierce competition from local casino enterprises.
To be eligible for a Belgian Gaming Commission license, an operator must also hold a license for a brick-and-mortar, land-based gambling enterprise, too. This naturally rules out many of the internet’s leading sportsbooks and casino sites. However, bookies such as Ladbrokes (which do operate high-street outlets in the country), and major casinos such as Golden Palace have acquired licenses.
There is a cap on the number of licenses which can be offered to Belgian online casinos. The Belgian Gaming Commission is often at odds with the European Union when it comes to their issuing of licenses, as EU law dictates a free and open market. However, this far, the Belgians have escaped any punitive action from the EU, and they have even gone as far as to blacklist any casino which does not own a license – much to the annoyance of those in charge of EU rules regarding gambling.
Typical Belgian casinos will offer their services in French, English and Dutch, and possibly German, too, to cater to all players in the country. They will also offer gameplay using the euro currency, and frequently provide several types of gambling games under one roof, such as poker, casino games and sports betting. Dice slots (as they are known) are particularly big in Belgium, and many of those, feature in the gaming options at traditional Belgian casinos.
Of course, if the Belgian gaming experience doesn’t float your boat, you can always try and play at offshore casino sites. Belgian has made this very tough to do. They maintain one of the strictest and lengthiest blacklists in Europe. Any casino which doesn’t hold a Belgian Gaming Commission issued license can, in theory, be blacklisted. Belgian ISPs (internet service providers) are forced to keep tabs on any “illegal” offshore casinos which become notable enough to require attention. They are then added to the blacklist. Almost all the major worldwide casinos (even popular, and respectable ones from the UK, Malta and Gibraltar) are blacklisted.
Of course, many of the smaller, more obscure casinos and sportsbooks (not to mention, bitcoin casino sites) have thus far avoided the blacklist. It is still illegal to play at said sites, but since they are not on the blacklist, access to them is not denied. There is no real penalty for playing at an offshore casino – at least not one which Belgian players are going to have to pay. The penalties are often handed to the casino operators instead.
We wouldn’t advocate playing at such far-flung online casinos, on the basis that so many of them tend to be unlicensed, unregulated and probably rogue casinos. You can, however, try your luck with a VPN (virtual private network) to try and get around the blacklist, by pretending that you are based in another country. The Belgian Gaming Commission is often wise to this, though, and many players have reported that most VPNs are ineffective at remedying the situation.
About gambling in Belgium
If you do decide to play in Belgium, there are a few things you should be aware of.
Firstly, the Belgian authorities have no problem with you gambling, they just want you to do it at their local Belgian casinos, or at a casino which has a forked out a fortune for a Belgian Gaming Commission issued license. There are still a good number of major casinos offering their services to players in Belgium, but choice is somewhat limited when compared to other, more liberal European countries.
There is no known punishment for playing at an online casino which is not licensed and has avoided the blacklist. The Belgian Gaming Commission tries to frighten Belgians by issuing police warnings on blacklisted sites, but there has not been a single case of the Belgian police being involved, or any prosecutions against players who play at offshore sites.
The Belgian Gaming Commission goes out of its way to protect its players. However, that protection is mainly aimed at Belgian casinos (and brick-and-mortar ones). If the EU clamps down on member states disregarding its rules, the Belgian Gaming Commission may have to think twice about their blacklist. There is always talk about the BGC relaxing some of their restrictions, which would allow major operators into the country, but none of those have come to fruition thus far.
We would advocate playing at a Belgian Gaming Commission licensed casino if you want an easy ride. If that doesn’t work for you, trying a VPN is still worth a shot since some of the better casinos you can play at are just about beyond the reach of the BGCs geo-blocking software.