Online gambling operator Betclic is being accused by the Belgian Public Prosecution Office of running an illegal iPoker and gambling network, with the country’s gaming commission also seizing player account balances and issuing penalties for offenders.
Headquartered in Paris, Betclic is a French online gaming operator that in addition to poker offers sports betting and other various Internet casino games.
The Belgian Gaming Commission (BGC) has already identified 79 citizens in its country gambling on the unlicensed site, fining them each â‚¬200 ($222) and seizing their Betclic player account balances. Dating back to February, the BGC says a total of â‚¬600,000 ($668,000) has been confiscated.
Peter Naessens, director of the BGC, says it’s customary for his commission to target the illegal operators before players, but in this instance, an exception was made. Though he has referred the case to the country’s prosecution department, he’s wasting no time in penalizing those who live in Belgium who knowingly gambled at the blacklisted site.
The $222 initial fine is expected to increase when a larger second group is punished next month. According to insiders, those penalties will range from â‚¬1,000 ($1,114) all the way up to â‚¬16,000 ($17,838) depending on the amount of wagering the offender was engaged in.
While the BGC continues its pursuit of individual players, Naessens says Betclic itself will face an even heftier fine for providing iGaming in the country. According to the BGC chief, Betclic could pace a penalty of up to â‚¬150,000 ($167,345).
In 2011, the BGC rewrote its online gaming laws to stipulate that any Internet casino provider must acquire a land-based license or be in a partnership with a land-based company in order to market to Belgians. Since then, the commission has been rather aggressive when it comes to rogue operators.
Many of the leading poker networks were black listed, with only PokerStars.be, Partouche.be, Poker770.be, and GoldenPalace.be becoming licensed.
When the BGC found bwin.party to be in violation of its law, Norbert Teufelberger, CEO of the digital entertainment company, was detained by Belgian authorities. Though Teufelberger maintained his company did no wrongdoing and the BGC later removed bwin from its blacklist, the tactics showed the gaming commission meant business.
The more significant development of the BGC’s actions, at least as it pertains to online poker fans, is that certain EU countries now seem to be more willing to go after not only operators, but also players.
Earlier this year, a German blackjack gambler was surprised to learn his government was fining him more than $72,000 dollars for wagering at a UK casino website. With Belgium also not afraid to pursue its own citizens, the actions are potentially setting an unwelcome precedent for online gamblers and poker players.
While abiding by the laws set forth in our own respective country is an aspect of self-accountability, players might not be the best entity to attack given the ever-changing landscape surrounding Internet gambling regulations. However, the conduct in Germany and now in Belgium reinforces the necessity in understanding online gaming law as it relates to your country of residence.