Belgium’s gambling watchdog is asking its government to broaden its mandate to allow it to go after operators of free-play gambling apps. The Belgian Gaming Commission (BGC) last sounded the alarm over social gaming back in June, warning that app makers were doing a craptacular job of verifying the ages of their players or taking steps to screen out customers dealing with bankruptcy or other financial woes.
The BGC is now singling out the makers of free blackjack and poker apps, as well as the app stores in which these products are distributed, for allegedly lowering the bar to gambling participation. Because no money is required to play the apps, they fall outside the BGC’s current scope of oversight, a fact the BGC would very much like addressed ASAP because, well, children are dying, or something.
The BGC also wants to create a social gaming operator blacklist, similar to the real-money online gambling blacklist the BGC has used to go after operators not holding a BGC-issued license. The BGC has previously added social gaming firms to its real-money blacklist but apparently has enough names in mind to warrant a dedicated social gaming list.
Meanwhile, Belgium’s ranks of professional poker players are bracing for the possibility that they’ll soon be paying up to 75% tax on their winnings. Under Belgium’s current tax code, gambling winnings are viewed as “exceptional events” and thus are spared the clutches of the taxman’s sticky fingers. But according to reports on financial media site Tijd.be, Belgium’s bean-counters are looking at reclassifying winnings generated by “an individual who plays poker regularly and who devotes enough time and efforts to the game to make it a profession.”
The number of affected players who have racked up significant earnings via the felt over the years isn’t likely to top a couple dozen. On the plus side, with their vocation officially deemed a job, these players would likely be permitted to deduct their poker losses and travel-related costs as legitimate business expenses. But if they get caught playing Zynga Poker, hell, string ’em up by their thumbs.