On January 1st the new and controversial Belgian online gambling legislation entered into effect. While the legislation further liberalizes the online gambling market by allowing companies to acquire new licenses, it forces ISPs to block citizens' access to unlicensed websites.
Just after January the 1st of January the Belgian online gambling licensing authority has announced that three new companies decided to acquire a new online gambling license. These companies were revealed to be PokerStars.be, Partouche.be, and Casino777.be.
These companies did already offer services on the Belgian market in the past as well, but they did not own a valid Belgian online gambling license. On the other hand, all three are licensed in various other European countries which accounts for security and reliability.
The reason for these companies for acquiring a Belgian license is that the Government beginning January 1st is threatening to blacklist unlicensed operators and force ISPs to block Belgian citizens' access to these websites.
This week the four major Belgian ISPs announced that they will support the Government in cracking down unlicensed online gambling operations. This announcement came after the same ISPs commented in December that they do not agree with the new Belgian legislation.
Their decision to support the newly adopted legislation was probably made because the Government threatened the ISPs with heavy fines in case they would not comply. According to this, at the moment there are several dozens of renowned international online gambling companies providing services in Belgium that risk to be banned soon.
The new online gambling legislation that just entered into force in Belgium received heavy criticism last year from operators, ISPs, but also from the European Commission. The EC argued that the new legislation is against EU guidelines and should be dropped.
Despite the heavy criticism the Belgian Government decided to move forward and adopt the legislation in its initial unmodified and highly controversial variant. Government officials argue that unlicensed online gambling operations contribute to a huge loss in online gambling tax revenue, a problem they hope to solve with this new legislation.