Belgium To Nationalize Online Poker
Wednesday, 6. January 2010

In defiance of an order from the European Union, Belgium appears to be following the actions of Italy in enacting laws in an effort to nationalize online poker business.

One of Belgium’s leading newspapers, De Standaard, recently printed an article stating that this year could bring laws changing Belgium’s current position governing online poker. These new regulations would prevent companies such as Pokerstars, Full Tilt Poker and Party Poker from cultivating the Belgian market; essentially nationalizing the industry. In order to court Belgian players, online poker rooms would be required to open independent operations that would be located and licensed inside of the country, similar to what Italy has recently done.

Such legislation directly defies an order issued by the European Union in June 2009. Upon receiving details last March of Belgian’s plans, the E.U. determined that such legislation violated several sections of the free trade treaty signed by all of the member states. Some of the violations include the requirement of operators to be based in Belgium, granting of limited licenses, prosecution of players on non-licensed sites and restriction of services supplied from other nations. In addition, Belgium proposed possibly using ISP blocking software in an effort to prevent its citizens from playing on other E.U. licensed sites.

The European Union has displayed a great deal of inconsistency when it comes to the nationalization of online poker sites. On the one hand, it allowed Italy to nationalize its online gaming operations but has spoken out against countries such as Belgium and France. In short, the EU has been unable to find an answer to the online gaming question among its member states.

This trend of nationalization has European players worried for a number of reasons. The main among them appears to be that nationalization could very well put an end to the global online playing pull, restricting players to play only against those residing in their own countries. For players in smaller European countries, this could be catastrophic.