Belgium’s gambling regulator under fire for ethics violations


belgium-gambling-regulator-ethics-violationsBelgium’s gambling regulator is under fire following allegations that some senior execs are guilty of ethics violations, including accepting gifts from gambling operators.

This weekend, Belgian media reported that the Center for Integrity (CINT), a division of the federal ombudsman, had conducted a probe into allegations that senior members of the Belgian Gaming Commission (BGC), including director Peter Naessens (pictured), were engaged in fraudulent and corrupt activities.

The probe was launched following a complaint filed last summer that led to the CINT conducting interviews and seizing some computers. While that complaint was ultimately dismissed, the probe subsequently identified five “serious” integrity breaches, including misuse of government funds, abuse of power and accepting gifts from the BGC’s gambling licensees.

Details are scant, but CINT reportedly concluded that “a staff member” had misused his office for personal gain. The report also concluded that actions taken by some BGC execs had the effect of “impeding the execution of core tasks” of the regulator.

Belgium’s Minister of Justice Koen Geens was quoted saying that he was still studying the report but would “take appropriate measures” if the situation warranted action. Naessens issued a statement through his lawyer saying he had “an honest reputation” and would defend himself against the allegations.

The Belgian Association of Gaming Operators reserved judgment on the brouhaha, saying that it “does not want to comment on a report of which it does not know the exact content.”

News of the CINT probe came just weeks after the BGC announced financial penalties against police officers for violating the ban on members of the justice system engaging in gambling activity. This marked the first time the BGC had fined police officers for violating the 1999 law.

The investigation into the alleged rule-breaking dates back to 2017, when dozens of Antwerp Police Service members were suspected of gambling online via their office computers, some using private citizens’ data to circumvent the prohibition.

A dozen officers were eventually found to be in breach of the rules, and three of them learned their fates this month. A female officer who opened an account under her mother’s name and gambled 87 times from her work computer was fined €5k.

Two other officers who opened accounts under relatives’ names got off comparatively lightly, receiving fines of €350 and €208, apparently due to the relatively modest excesses of their gambling activity. A further nine officers are still awaiting their fate.