Belgium approves new gambling ad restrictions

The Belgian government has introduced new restrictions on gambling advertising in the country.

Belgium's Council of Ministers approved a bill Friday submitted by Justice Minister Koen Geens, which aims to strengthen consumer protections.

The new legislation, which is subject to European Commission approval, aims to restrict gambling advertising around sporting broadcasts. It will ban advertisements during the course of a game, although sports betting operators will be allowed to advertise before and after games.

Advertising gambling services within 15 minutes before or after a programme aimed specifically at children will also be prohibited, as will all sports betting advertising prior to 8pm, excluding those before and after sports broadcasts.

Gaming operators will also be restricted to buying one advertising spot per company per commercial break, with all ads required to feature responsible gambling messaging. 

For land-based operators, the legislation introduces new measures to limit gambling in drinking establishments, and to reduce the total number of licensed betting shops in the country from 684 to 600.

This will see Belgium's municipalities handed greater oversight for betting venues, including the final decision as to where a shop can be located and its opening hours – controls which are already in place for gaming halls. 

Finally, new controls will be introduced for so-called "3.3" machines, where players try to match three identical figures, similar to a slot. These are frequently located in drinking establishments such as pubs and cafes and are seen as posing a particular risk to problem gamblers.

As a result they will be placed under the control of the Belgian Gaming Commission and the local authorities, with a maximum of four 3.3 machines allowed per establishment. The machines will be required to only accept payment in coins and must feature an electronic identity card reader to ensure that all players are 18 or over.

The legislation was approved Friday by the Council of Ministers, but is yet to be submitted to the European Commission for approval.

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