Legal uncertainty prompts Belgian regulator to suspend virtual sports in bookies

The Belgian Gaming Commission (BGC) has decided to suspend the operation of virtual sports games in betting shops after deciding that more specific legal controls were needed to properly regulate the product.

The regulator has taken the decision following an investigation by a subcommittee into online and offline virtual sports, which looked at the legality of the product as well as player protection measures.

It believes that there is no problem with the online variant, which is fully regulated through the guidelines established for the country's licensed iGaming market.

However, the subcommittee believes that the current regulations for land-based virtual sports betting, through the note published on July 1st of last year, was an inadequate framework for the game variant.

Last year saw strict controls placed on the product, with the broadcast of virtuals limited to 30 hours per month in order to prevent excessive gambling. The games may be offered up to 4 hours each day, either in a single block or in hour-long windows.

Licensees must submit monthly broadcasting schedules to the regulator, as well as details of the channels in which the games will be offered. They are also required to provide information on revenue as and when requested, except in the first three months after launch, when revenue figures must be supplied.

The number of virtual sports terminals in each establishment is limited to just 2 machines per venue.

However, the BGC believes that more legal certainty is required regarding the exact nature of virtual sports, to determine exactly which class of licensed establishment should be permitted to offer the games.

It plans to establish a class I, II and IV system, similar to that in place for slot games and other verticals, including age limitations, specific hourly loss limits and ID verification for the product. This "clear and necessary guidance" will also strengthen security controls to set out exact operating rules and technical protocols for the game.

The regulator will now start creating such regulations by performing a technical analysis of virtual sports.

Until this analysis is completed, the commission has suspended the July 1st controls, meaning virtual sports games cannot be offered in Class I, II and IV establishments. 


Following a "reasonable transitional period" virtual sports games must be temporarily removed from gambling venues, with this period extended by two months, meaning all such games are to be removed from June 1st.



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