The ranks of Belgium’s brick-and-mortar and online casinos appear set to expand if the country’s new coalition government gets its way. Belgium’s new government – already dubbed the ‘kamikaze coalition’ for its tenuous four-party makeup and the daunting fiscal reform challenges facing it – was sworn in on Saturday. Chief among the coalition’s goals is reducing the country’s net debt, which currently stands at 100% of GDP, and apparently a little more casino tax revenue wouldn’t hurt.
Last week, the government released a 207-page program of its legislative intentions, which included a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it reference to a review of the Games of Chance Act. Specifically, the coalition’s review of the 1999 Act would be made for the purpose of “increasing the number of allowed Class 1 establishments of games of chance to 11.” That would be two more than the nine brick-and-mortar casinos currently plying their trade in the country. We like to think this revision will become known as the Tufnel Amendment, for the Spinal Tap guitarist whose Marshall stack famously went ‘one louder’ than 10.
The land-based expansion would conceivably allow more online gambling operators to enter the Belgian market. Belgian law requires all licensed online gambling operators to partner with a licensed land-based gaming operator, such as the shotgun marriage of UK-listed online operator Bwin.party and Groupe Partouche’s Belgian subsidiary Belcasinos, which came about only after Belgian authorities put the screws to Bwin.party CEO Norbert Teufelberger.
Belgium’s new government is also planning to revise regulations to permit international cruise ships’ onboard casinos to keep the gambling going even after they enter Belgium’s territorial waters. Under the proposed revisions, shipboard gamblers would be able to gamble right up until the ship docks at a Belgian port.