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Belgium Approves Internet Gaming, Lottery Deploys Online

7th December 2009 9:49 am GMT

The Belgian National Lottery is to begin a trial of online gaming today with a view to a full launch on 18th January 2010, following approval of the new Belgian Gaming Act on Thursday December 3rd.

The trial will initially be conducted amongst 100 players beginning December 7th, increasing to approximately 3,000 participants by the end of the six week process. The full launch of online gaming services is planned for Monday January 18th 2010, subject to the successful completion of the test phase.

The four year contract for the Belgian lottery's new interactive gaming system was awarded to GTECH in May 2009 following a competitive procurement process. (more)

At launch the interactive gaming offering will feature all of the lottery operators current draw games including Lotto, Joker, EuroMillions, Keno, Super Lotto, Super Joker and Pick 3, with further games expected to be deployed over time.

In an effort to combat the problem of underage gambling in Belgium, the new Gaming Act requires gamblers to open an online account via pre-registration so that the National Lottery can verify players' identities using individuals national identity numbers, restricting participation to adult Belgian residents.

Once approved, players will be limited to a maximum weekly deposit of €300 with a cap on player account balances of €450. The system will also allow players the opportunity to set their own daily spending limits, capped at a maximum €100 per day. Further protections include a ban on deposits via credit cards and the payment of players' winnings exceeding €50 directly to their bank accounts as opposed to their online gaming accounts.

The new initiative will target consumers in the 18 to 34 year old demographic, which the National Lottery says is already active online via illegal gambling sites.

The National Lottery's online launch follows on from a 2002 law authorising it to organise gaming via the internet, and approval of the new Gaming Act late Thursday by the House of Representatives despite objections by the European Commission as to its compatibility with EC law.

The Belgian government however believes that the recent ruling by the European Court of Justice in the bwin/Santa Casa case does allow for the restrictions contained in the new act and has communicated its position to the Commission.

The European Commission issued a Detailed Opinion on the Belgian Gaming Act in June of this year, raising doubts about the applicability of restrictions on the freedom to provide services, most notably the requirement that operators must have a land-based gaming licence in the country in order to apply for an online gaming licence. (more)

The restriction however remains, with the only amendments approved last week being those which repeal the law prohibiting the recovery of gambling debts via the courts, an amendment allowing betting on foreign horse races and an amendment to ban gambling on credit cards.

The new Gaming Act is expected to pass into law in January 2010.

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