The Belgian Royal Decree grants to the Belgian National Lottery an exclusive additional licence to operate bets breaching a number of Constitutional and EU principles and putting the National Lottery in a privileged and beneficial situation compared to the other betting operators present in the Belgian market.
Stanleybet together with all the other members of the Belgian Betting Association (Bingoal and Betfirst), on 5 October 2012, lodged to the Belgian Council of State a request for annulment and suspension of the Royal Decree concerning the provisions of betting services by the National Lottery published on the Belgian Official Journal on 9 August 2012.
The betting market in Belgium is regulated by the Belgian Gambling Law, which entered into force in January 2011, and by its implementing Royal Decrees, putting into place a licencing framework of 34 licences for the organization of bets. This limit was established by the Belgian legislator who considered 34 licenses to be the proper limit for the Belgian market calculating this number on the basis of the betting operators present in the market at the time the legislation was drafted, two years ago, therefore not counting as a betting operator the National Lottery. The limitation of the offer set to no more than 34 licences was justified in order to ensure that the Belgian betting market would have remained the same in terms of size, as it was considered appropriate, and to guarantee the effective control of the offer by channeling it and combating its exponential expansion for the protection of consumers.
Stanleybet applauded this competitive model and it entered into the Belgian gambling market by applying and obtaining in April 2011 one of the 34 F1 licences, thus being able to organize sports bets via press outlets across the country.
The principles of this competitive market are seriously jeopardized as the Royal Decree of the 9th August 2012 grants an additional 35th exclusive licence to a State owned company, the Belgian National Lottery, which holds a monopoly licence for the organization and running of lotteries. This puts the National Lottery in a beneficial and privileged situation as it is explicitly granted with a new licence for the organization of bets while all the other private operators have to follow an application procedure.
Furthermore given the massive scale of the products the Belgian National Lottery offers from its monopolistic licence (Lotto, Euromillions, etc) from all press outlets across the country, an entry in a regulated but competitive market as that of sports betting will enable the National Lottery to utilize this unique advantage and literally corner the Belgian sports betting market in a manner which falls foul of every notion of EU competition law.
This will have the opposite effect that the Belgian gambling law wanted to achieve: instead of limiting and combating the exponential expansion of the offer, it will be inevitably increased as the National Lottery will be able to benefit from its current distributing network, which counts 3.400 selling points, as stated by the National Lottery in an interview of its representative (ProDiPresse Mag n.29 Jan-Feb 2012), while the current regulated offer of sports bets is available in 650 selling points across Belgium.
The entry into force of the Royal Decree establishing the existence of a betting licence expressly for the National Lottery breaches a number of Constitutional and EU principles, such as equal treatment, and it goes against the CJEU jurisprudence as restrictions can only be justified if they contribute to limit gambling activities in a coherent and systematic manner, which will not be the case with the implementation of this Royal Decree.
Stanleybet, following its commitment to promote fair and competitive sports betting markets across Europe, wonders about the legitimacy of this Royal Decree, together with the other members of the Belgian Betting Association, as there is no justification for the granting of this additional exclusive licence to the National Lottery two years after the regulated and competitive model was approved and implemented.