Belgium Seeks to Nationalize, Regulate Online Poker

Written by Michael F. on 2010-01-05 at 10:58
Belgian gambling laws - GamingZion
A recent article in the Belgian newspaper De Standaard has revealed that the government will be changing its stance on online poker during the next year. Belgian gambling laws will be changed to officially nationalize all internet poker. This change would serve to force foreign internet poker sites out of the game, prohibiting them from offering their services to players in Belgium. All internet service providers in the country would be forced to block foreign sites that do not comply with the new rules. 

This is a move that has been discussed for well over a year, but it had not come to fruition due to strong opposition from the European Union, which repeatedly insists that such actions on the part of the Belgian government would violate EU fair trade laws. The EU issued an order in June of 2009 stating these violations and demanding that Belgium comply with EU laws. The online poker ban, should it be initiated, would be in direct defiance of this order. 

Under a nationalized poker system, all online poker sites in Belgium would have to be licensed by the Belgian government and be physically hosted within the country in order to be legal. Moreover, only Belgian players would have access to them. While the new law would official legalize internet poker in Belgium, no sites currently hold licenses, which presents a bit of a problem for players. 

A similar situation currently exists in Italy, where some of the larger multinational poker companies like PokerStars run Italian-only versions of their sites, which operate on closed networks and follow stringent rules set forth by Italian gambling laws. 

Players are naturally concerned, even though the law would not go into effect until late 2010 or early 2011. The nationalization of Belgian poker rooms would cut players off from the rest of the world. Much of the enjoyment that players derive from playing poker online is the fact that they can compete against people from all over the world. Restricting internet poker to a single country would remove much of its appeal to players.

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