Belgian gambling ad ban is being criticized by Dutch Minister

Franc Weerwind, the Dutch minister for legal protection, has criticized the Belgian government’s decision to restrict most kinds of gambling advertising, claiming that a comparable strategy is not required in the Netherlands.

On May 10, the Belgian government recommended an outright ban on gambling advertising, with the exception of the lottery. The new regulations will take effect at the end of the year.

Weerwind’s comments came after Belgian Justice Minister Vincent van Quickenbourne announced the ban, claiming that “gaming is the new smoking” and that “everyone believes it is better without tobacco advertising.”

Weerwind pushed back against the connection of gambling to a public health concern rather than a harmful recreational activity in a response to parliamentary questions from Evert Jan Slootweg.

“I don’t quite agree with Minister van Quickenborne’s comments. We all know that smoking is hazardous for your health. Many individuals enjoy games of chance as a sort of entertainment, and they do not cause any issues for a huge number of people.”

While acknowledging the dangers of gambling, the minister emphasized that rather than a blanket ban, the solution should be better regulated and safer legal gaming: “Gambling does contain risks. Because of these dangers, it’s critical that participants are well safeguarded. This happens with legal service providers, who must follow tight guidelines.”

Weerwind did not argue that advertising reforms were wholly unnecessary, citing some of his government’s previous actions: “From 30 June 2022, the usage of role models for harmful games of chance will be prohibited.” As reported in the letters to the House of 17 March and 21 April 2022, work is also underway on a ban on untargeted advertising for harmful games of chance.”

The minister also claimed that the increase in monthly played hours since the legalization of online gambling should not be considered a cause for concern.

“In the framework of gambling legislation, I place the observation that the number of hours individuals spend on websites of legal suppliers has increased.” Increased involvement in games of chance has never been the goal. Keeping this at the same level hasn’t been an aim either.”

“The goal of the games of chance policy is to ensure that people play as safely as possible,” he stated. In doing so, we must keep in mind the dangers of addiction and avoid luring susceptible persons, such as children, into gambling games. Legal providers provide better protection for vulnerable people than do unlawful suppliers.”