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Gaming sector in Belgium

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Casino Gaming

Eight casinos have long operated in Belgium in spite of the technically illegal status of casino gamin gin the country prior to 1999. All were located in coastal towns or in spa towns, Parliament finally passed a law in 1999 that legalized their status, and created a Gambling Commission (Commission des Jeux de Hasard) under the authority of the Minsitry of Justice.

It further authorized a ninth casino to be opened in Brussels, and that casino, the Grand Casino Brussels, opened in 2005.

The gross gaming revenue in 2002 was €48.8 million in the casino sector in Belgium, falling to €47.5 million in 2003 and €45.1 million in 2004. Since the law change in 2004, casinos are permitted to operate fifteen jackpot machines for each table operated for more than five hours per day.

Currently casinos are paying separate taxes for table games and slot machines in operation in Belgium. The gaming tax rates vary depending on the region and type of table game.

The limit of nine casinos in Belgium is fixed by the coordinated law of May 7, 1999. In addition to the existing properties, the 1999 legislation provided the opportunity for the opening of a ninth casino within the Brussels area, a property which would obviously provide a strong market, particularly given the status of the city as home to much official European business. During 2001 the first phase of the casino’s development concluded that the property should be located within the centre of Brussels.

Casino Austria International was awarded the Brussels license during June 2004. The company will initially develop a property including 30 tables and 300 slot machines opened in temporary premises in December 2005. A €30m, 4,000 sq ft, permanent facility is being developed in the new Anspach Centre with 50 tables and 500 slots.

For the purposes of combating money laundering, casinos in Belgium are obliged to declare a number of operations to CTIF-CFI (Cellule de traitement des informations financiers), such as:

???? number of playing chips bought by clients who used false identifying documents
???? sale/exchange of casino chips with other casinos
???? the purchase of casino chips by client, by cash or credit card if the value exceeds €10,000
???? the purchase of casino chips by client, by cash or credit card if the value exceeds €2,500 equivalent in foreign currency
???? the purchase of casino chips by client, by cheque if the value exceeds €2,500
???? clients who attempt to buy more casino chips than allowed
???? any suspicious looking clients can also be reported
???? when clients are obliged to have to prove that they bought casino chips from the casino

There was a decrease in the number of declarations related to possible money laundering made since 2002, which is linked to the introduction of euro due to the fact that there are now fewer people buying casino chips with foreign currency. Casino de Namur was closed in 2004 because of money laundering allegations.

Machine Gambling Outside Casinos

A variety of gaming devices are permitted outside of casinos (which hold category A licenses) by way of category B licenses for arcades and category C licenses for establishments with liquor licenses (drinking establishments). Furthermore, there were about 208 suppliers/repairers under the license E category in Belgium in 2004, out of which 18 organisations produce gaming machines. Category C pubs cannot have more than two bingo machines on their premises. For the type A (casinos) and type B (gaming arcades) licenses, the legislature imposed a maximum number of licenses at nine type A licenses and 180 type B licenses.

A maximum of thirty gaming machines are permitted in arcades. Since the maximum number of 180 gaming arcades has been reached, no further licenses can be issued. All new applicants are put on a waiting list. The Belgian Gaming Commission is pursuing a severe control policy. Violation of the law may lead to suspension or even cancellation of any individual license. There are no GGR numbers available for the AWPs in gaming arcades.

However, the approximate turnover (handle) of gambling machines operated in gambling establishments outside of casinos was €110.8 million in 2004 (not counting bingo machines), based on survey data from 153 out of the 180 type B licensed establishments. (Stakeholder submission.)

The number employed in gaming arcades is around 720 people and there are about 7,500 people working in alcohol licensed premises, which operate gaming machines. All together, there are 8220 people working in premises where gaming machines are available.

Betting

Both on-track and off-track betting are legal in Belgium, and customers can bet with bookmakers at fixed odds or participate in pari-mutuel pools. According to the Belgian National Bank and betting operators, the turnover of the sector for 2005 was €231.4 million euros, as reported by the Belgian Gaming Commission. This figure does not take into account the operations of illegal bookmakers.

There are four companies in Belgium acting as bookmakers for foreign horse racing and other sports. PMU Belge has a monopoly for running the totalisator on Belgian horse racing.

The bookmakers are agents of PMU Belge.

There are also 10 to 15 companies currently offering sports betting. They range from companies with one/two outlets to the ones that have over 100 outlets (Belgabet) or with a stated objective to have over 100 outlets in the near future (StanleyBet).

In addition, there are a number of foreign internet operators that are targeting the Belgian market and taking bets from Belgian residents.

Ladbrokes are the largest betting shop operator in Belgium with approximately 300 betting shops in 2005, having increased the number from 208 since they last reported in 2002.

Ladbrokes accepts bets on foreign horse racing and other sports, as well as acts as an agent for Belgian horse racing. These three elements are treated separately by law.

Belgium has a complex betting tax system, where the amount of tax required to pay depends on the type of betting as well as the region where the bet is made. Overall, the Belgian betting market is stagnant and no growth is expected.

Betting turnover is exempt from VAT. There are no expenses for obtaining bookmaking licenses, although a guaranteed deposit needs to be made as a security for the Ministry of Finance that the betting taxes will be paid. A percentage of turnover has to be paid on all totalisator bets on sport to a government body (ADEPS).

There are currently some 1000 people directly dependent on the bookmakers and PMU for their livelihood. This number is in decline annually and was probably some 20% higher five years ago.

Bingo

Bingo is only permitted in the casinos in Belgium (licenses A) under the terms of the Royal Decree of November 24, 2004. It is required that 50% of the collected profits are transferred to good causes. At the moment, however, bingo is rarely played.

The “bingo” is also a type of machine in Belgium and it can be exploited in the bars only after obtaining a license of class C, delivered by the commission.

Sales Promotional Gambling

Promotional games are important for generating revenues for certain Belgian sports bodies, including the Belgian Olympic Committee. However, the researchers were unable to find, either from published sources or from inquiries made to stakeholders, data on the magnitude of such revenues.

Charity Gambling

Charitable lotteries are organised on a small scale at national, provincial and local levels.

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