Online casino offers must often compete with brick-and-mortar establishments. We tend to think of this competition mostly as it affects players, but there are more stakeholders in this game, as the Belgian example shows.
Recent examination of the country’s Gaming Commission by the Court of Audit exposed serious weaknesses in the regulatory authority’s operations.
It appears that lack of funds and staff has been preventing the agency from using its full potential assigned by law. According to Commission President Etienne Marique, “online sports betting and games monopolize all of our resources, at the expense of what is done in cafes, arcades and casinos.”
Paying attention to online gambling sites is an important task, but land-based casinos and gambling halls remain an important area of activity, even in these days of online gambling proliferation. “This is always a sensitive sector, yet we still lack a decent IT infrastructure and sufficient staff to ensure controls during the days, nights and weekends.”
Since the 2010 changes in Belgian gambling laws led to a number of whitelisted, licensed sites starting their operations, the agency’s task became significantly more complex.
Not only do they have to keep checking and blacklisting unlicensed international and Belgian internet casinos, they should also carry on with their original task of monitoring brick-and-mortar gambling establishments. There are over 180 game parlors, casinos and Bingo halls in Belgium.
The increase in obligations, however, did not translate into increased staff and budget. Despite petitioning the government for more personnel, the Gaming Commission still has a team of only 5 inspectors for the whole country.
The Court of Audit also highlighted that although there have been two dedicated funds receiving money from the operating licenses, which are intended to finance the Commission’s operations, not all of that supposedly ring-fenced money finds its way to the intended recipient.