While the company risks becoming the first operator to ever be charged with criminal sanctions in Belgium, Betclic Everest has announced its decision to pull out from the country. Starting Monday, Betclic Everest's four different brands including Betclic and Bet-at-Home will no longer be available to Belgium residents.
The decision comes while Belgium’s Public Prosecution Office (PPO) carries an investigation on Betclic operations that could result into a €1.2m fine for the company.
As reported by eGaming Review, a spokesperson from Betclic confirmed the group’s withdrawal from the Belgian market, but refused to issue any further statement or comment on the issue.
The troublesome relationship between Betclic and the PPO came to the attention of the media in February, when Belgium’s authorities seized approximately €600,000 in transactions made to betclic.com.
The operation started once several payment processors and financial institutions signaled the existence of transactions between Betclic and citizens resident in Belgium – a country where the operator has been blacklisted since May 2012.
What the prosecutor’s office considers being Betclic’s illegal activity in Belgium refers to operations carried out by the company between the adoption of the Belgian Gambling Act (2010) and today.
According to the country’s legislation, companies interested in offering online gambling to Belgium’s citizens need to acquire a license to enter a state-controlled system and partner with a brick-and-mortar casino.
Currently, Betclic does not hold one of the 35 licenses already given to online operators, and does not have a particular agreement or partnership in place with any of the brick-and-mortar casinos active in the country.
Before the PPO decided to focus on Betclic and dig into its operations with an investigation that could eventually result in one or more of its board members facing a prison sentence up to five years, something similar happened to the bwin.party group. In that case, back in 2012, the issue was resolved with the establishment of a partnership between bwin.party and live casino group Partouche.
The investigation of the Prosecutor's Office is believed to be part of a broader operation carried out by Belgium’s authorities against the activity of unlicensed operators within the country.
In this sense, already back in March, the Belgian Gambling Commission (BGC) doubled the number of inspectors hunting for players active on so-called "grey operators" and explained its intention to act at the same time against unlicensed operators and players not conforming to the current legislation.
"After four years we expect that they should know what is legal and what is not," BGC spokeswoman Marjolein De Paepe told PokerFuse on March 20, stressing how players found guilty of playing on unlicensed operators are at risk of fines of up to €150,000 and up to three years of imprisonment.
Photo courtesy of sxc.hu