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Belgian Mayors Demand Less Gambling Machines

Politicians perceive too many opportunities to roll the electronic bingo ball.

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The Belgian towns of Schaarbeek and Sint-Joost-ten-Node have recently passed a measure demanding a EUR 2,500 “administrative fee” before a pub may install a gambling machine.

“The initiative is indeed mind-boggling,” says Diane Delen of catering industry association FedCaf. “The municipality has 10 minutes of work max, when checking our applications. It’s just a brief intermediate step [in the process].”

But the municipalities insist that the amount is not extraordinarily large, considering that these machines yield their owners between EUR 5,000-10,000 each month. They also claim that there is a lot of inspection and monitoring work involved over the lifetime of the machines.

Currently only pinball-like electronic bingo and one-ball machines are allowed in pubs. The similarities to pinball are limited to the shape of the machine, but instead of flippers, the slanting surface contains numbered holes. Furthermore, the backboard displays one or more “bingo slips”. Playing these machines is of course not the same as real bingo, which is only found in some Belgian casinos.

The numbers of such gambling equipment is also limited by Belgian gambling laws to two machines per establishment.

Even this strict cap is, however, too lax for the municipalities in question. Joined also by the town of Evere, these local administrations have petitioned the government to amend the laws, lowering the limit to a single machine per pub. Furthermore, they demand the power to set citywide quotas on gambling machines.

That would be pretty dire gambling news for operators, distributors and manufacturers alike, considering that around 8000 of the country’s hold a license allowing the operation of two devices.

Bernard Clerfayt, mayor of Schaarbeek, and incidentally an FDF member of the country’s parliament, has already introduced a draft bill to achieve this goal. With FDF possessing only three mandates in the Chamber of Representatives and none in the Senate, rallying necessary support for the proposal is unlikely.

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