Belgium’s gambling regulator is preparing to lower the boom on online gambling operator Betway over an alleged “lack of transparency” in the company’s ownership.
On Wednesday, Belgian media quoted Belgian Gaming Commission (BGC) spokesperson Marjolein De Paepe saying the regulator had “started a sanction procedure” against Betway “because of the cumulative license and the lack of transparency.”
De Paepe went on to say that the BGC’s findings will be shared with “the public prosecutor, the anti-money laundering unit [Belgian Financial Intelligence Processing Unit] and the Special Tax Inspectorate.” Until those entities weigh in, the BGC doesn’t intend to release any further info.
Betway received a BGC license in 2015 after securing a land-based partnership with Casino Austria International’s Grand Casino Brussels. Belgian law requires all online operators to team with a local land-based operator.
However, a different Betway-affiliated unit had previously received a Belgian license as a manufacturer and repairer of gambling machines, and Belgium’s gambling law doesn’t allow operators to hold licenses in more than one gaming category.
The BGC launched its Betway probe in November 2017 after the company was named in the so-called Panama Papers, which detailed the opaque corporate structures of companies looking to minimize their tax obligations in various countries.
The BGC reportedly expressed alarm at its lack of hard information regarding Betway’s ownership and the source of its capital. Similar alarm was expressed over the fact that Betway’s Malta office turned out to be little more than a post office box.
The BGC has several options in its enforcement arsenal, including issuing a warning, a financial penalty or the suspension or outright revocation of Betway’s Belgian license. The government could also choose to launch a criminal prosecution.
A Betway spokesperson told Belgian media outlet Knack that the company had cooperated fully with the BGC’s probe and expressed confidence that the company “does not expect to get a fine or another sanction.”
Betway has bolstered awareness of its Belgian operation through high-profile sponsorship deals, including the Belgian Football Association’s Croky Cup as well as an individual deal with first division team RSC Anderlecht.
GET OFF THE BUS
In other BGC enforcement news, the regulator recently spanked public transportation firm De Lijn for promoting an internationally licensed online casino on the side of a bus. The bus-side promo was on behalf of Wincasinos.nl, which is run by the Netherlands-based Entergaming BV.
Entergaming operates three land-based gaming halls in the Netherlands, as well as a social casino site (Xlwin.nl) but the Wincasinos site is little more than a promo for the company’s overall gaming operations.
Regardless, the BGC notes that Wincasinos hasn’t been issued a Belgian gaming license, and that anyone promoting unauthorized sites faces a prison term of up to three years and a fine of up to €25k. Belgian law also allows the prosecution of individual gamblers who patronize such sites.
The BGC didn’t specify what punishment it had in store for De Lijn, although it noted that the company pulled the offending advert after being contacted by the regulator.