Belgian Gaming Commission, Unibet At Odds over Politcal Wager

19 September 2007

The Belgian Commission des Jeux de Hasard on Wednesday filed a complaint with the Brussels prosecutor's office alleging that Unibet is illegally offering action on when the country's French- and Flemish-speaking halves will call a political cease-fire.

"Gambling on a date when a new government is formed is illegal," Marc Callu, a representative from the commission, told Vlaamse Radio- en Televisie-omroep (VRT), a Flemish-language public radio station.

Callu said that under Belgian law punters are prohibited from wagering on all but horseracing and sporting events.

Unibet's Web site offers 25 to 1 odds for those who think that a new government will be formed before Oct. 1, though the odds drop to 2.5 to 1 for those who pick a date after Dec. 1, 2007. Similarly, the site offers odds on which of seven political figures will be picked as the next prime minister.

The Associated Press notes however that the site does not offer bets on whether Belgium will survive as a country amid "growing worries the nation's unity is at stake due to deep political divisions."

"Unibet certainly thinks it is unfair," said Christoph de Preter, legal counsel for Unibet's Belgian and EU operations. "[The company] will continue to offer its bets on the Internet, including the bet on the formation of the new government, as it has done over the last years."

De Preter added that this incident was not the first time the Malta-based company and the Belgian gaming authorities have been at loggerheads and probably came as a result of growing political tension across the EU's host nation.

Friction between the country's Walloon and Flemish constituent parts has been long in the making and was brought to a head after the parties failed to form a government after elections three months ago.

Unibet has listed similar bets on Poland's October elections as well as on which Republican or Democratic candidates will take the primaries in the United States.