BetClic Everest-owned Bet-At-Home has become the second operator to issue legal proceedings against the Belgian state over its website being blacklisted and blocked in the country.
Malta-licensed Bet-At-Home’s main dot.com domain was added to the Belgian Gaming Commission’s blacklist of sites targeting the market without a local licence on 9 May, along with domains belonging to BetClic, bwin, Betfair, William Hill and Betsson. Under the amended legislation that came into force last year, the four largest service providers in Belgium are compelled to block access to the websites within 30 days of their appearing on the blacklist.
However, Bet-At-Home has followed bwin in lodging an interim procedure before the Brussels’ Court of First Instance, aimed at getting its domains removed from the blacklist and access to the website restored.
Bet-At-Home, following the court’s rejection of bwin.party’s legal action against the blacklist last month, has issued its lawsuit just against the Minister of Justice (representing the Belgian State) and has based its claim to have the blacklisting and blocking process declared illegal on several new arguments, including the lack of internet filtering obligations of internet intermediaries in the European eCommerce Directive 2000/31. “In addition, Bet-at-home seems to invoke some sound arguments based on data protection legislation”, said Patrick van Eecke and Antoon Dierick of lawyers DLA Piper.
The Court of First Instance in Brussels will hold a first hearing this Monday 16 July, when the Court President will decide whether the claim will be dismissed, delayed or allowed to proceed.
Under the Belgian Royal Decree that came into effect on 1 January last year, online permits are restricted to licensed land-based gaming entities in Belgium, with nine A+ licences on offer to casinos, 34 F1+ permits to sports betting operators and around 180 B+ licences to arcade operators. Under the legislation, the four largest internet service providers are compelled to block sites that aren’t in receipt of a licence from the Belgian Gaming Commission. Online operators without a Belgian licence face potential fines of up to €100,000 for “facilitating”, “advertising” or “recruiting” for illegal games of chance in Belgium. Players in the country also face fines of up to €25,000 for playing on sites that haven’t been licensed by the Commission.
The Belgian Gaming Commission’s blacklist is now 35-strong following the addition of five more sites, including bet365.com, on 4 July. Unibet did however became only the second major European online operator, after PokerStars, to receive a licence from the Belgian Gaming Commission, being issued with one of 34 F1+ permits. PokerStars was awarded its licence via its partnership with the land-based Circus Groupe of bricks’n'mortar casinos.