Belgian law enforcement agencies are continuing their crackdown again organizers of unlicensed and illegal poker tournaments and poker home games. The government is to implement the recently modified Belgian gambling laws which specifically target players of illegal poker games and tournaments. The new royal decree does not give additional powers to law enforcement or porsecutors but rather permits the Belgian Gambling Commission to impose and collect fines directly from players.
Poker tournaments and every variety of poker table games are perfectly legal inside licensed casinos, poker room and online casinos in Belgium. The popularity of unlicensed home games and tournament has infuriated the Belgian government, which loses millions of Euros of potential tax revenues. The new royal decree is expected to take effect in late May of 2011.
In the past, the Belgian Gaming Commission has focused exclusively on organizers of illegal poker tournaments as well as the operators of illegal internet gambling operations. Players were never fined or prosecuted. That is no longer the case under the new law which mandates that “all participants in illegal gambling tournaments are to be heavily fined.”
The fine will be imposed directly by the Belgian Gaming Commission, even if police decided not to arrest or prosecutors decline to file charges against players of illegal poker. The Gambling Commission could fine players who participate in illegal games inside unlicensed Belgian poker rooms as little as 26 Euros and all the way up to 100,000 Euros.
Some jurisdictions are already prosecuting players and organizers of illegal poker games under criminal laws. Last week, the criminal court in Bruges convicted a Tielt cafe owner and seven players of ‘gambling without the consent of the Gambling Commission.’ The owner was fined 13,850 Euros, three players were each fined 2,750 Euros, four players were each fined 550 Euro and the company that supplied casino chips and the poker table was fined 19,255 Euros.