Belgium's fight against unlicensed online poker operators reached new heights this week, as the country's Gambling Commission (BGC) decided to levy fines against 79 Belgian nationals who have played at Betclic.com, the gambling portal owned by the Betclic-Everest Group.
Although the Belgian legislation on gambling would allow the authorities to issue fines for up to €150,000 to each individual caught on unlicensed sites, the BGC decided to start off with a much less threatening amount and asked each and every player included in the list to pay a €200 penalty.
However, as the BGC President Etienne Marique explained, the operation against the Belgian nationals who choose to play on unlicensed sites is only in its early stages, as the authorities are evaluating the position of a much larger number of players based in Belgium.
As the country's daily Sudpresse reports, the BGC is currently investigating a list of 180 additional names that may be at risk of fines of an amount comprised between €1,500 and €16,000.
Similarly to the players, Betclic is also going to be fined by the Belgian authorities for having offered online gambling services to Belgian nationals. In this case, however, the sanction risked by the operator seems to be of a much more significative amount, as the Belgian press reports that Betclic could be asked to pay a €150,000 penalty for conducting unlicensed operations in the country.
This is not the first time that the BGC has tried to stop the Betclic-Everest group from operating in Belgium, as back in April 2014, the national Public Prosecution Office (PPO) started an investigation on the group's operations that led to the seizure of assets for approximately €600,000.
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.
Consequently to the seizure, and while facing the risk of incurring in a fine for €1.2 million for the operations conducted in Belgium between 2010 and 2014, in 2014 Betclic-Everest announced its intention to pull out from the country and to no longer accept any Belgian residents in any of the groups' gambling and betting portals, including Betclic.com and Bet-at-Home.
Before the attack on Betclic's operations in the country, the Belgian authorities had also put the bwin.party group under the magnifying lens, with an issue that was resolved through the establishment of a partnership between bwin.party and the live casino group Partouche.
The deal between the two groups was needed by bwin, because the Belgian legislation on gambling obliges any operators interested in offering online gambling services to Belgian nationals to establish partnerships with brick-and-mortar casinos.
The BGC also keeps an updated blacklist with all the sites that are supposed to be unreachable from the country. The blacklist, which was last updated on May 6, features 99 operators and includes world-famous names such as 888poker, Betclic, PKR, Redbet, and Titanpoker.