Belgian Poker in Brief

17 July 2007

The Belgian Gaming Board has put forward a missive that sheds some light on the legal status of poker and poker tournaments in the country.

According to Belgian rules, poker meets the criteria laid down for games of chance.

Games of chance, the document says, must feature a lay-in, organizational costs or an entrance fee, and provide the possibility for players to both win and lose money.

Article 14 of the Law on Games of Chance reads that it is forbidden to offer and derive revenue from games of chance without a special permit from the Gaming Board. The language also stipulates that games of chance can be played live and electronically in class I and II facilities, only--that is, casinos and gaming halls, respectively.

Contravening the law can result in prison sentences spanning six months to five years, with fines ranging from 100 euros ($137) to 100,000 ($137,822) euros.

However, there is one exception written in Article 3/3 of the law. The loophole, dated May 5, 1999, stipulates that card games played outside class I and II facilities can only be played with very low stakes and low material winnings.

The Board of Public Prosecutors, which was responsible for crafting the criminal policy, has set down rules for legal play outside of casinos and gaming halls. Stakes per game should not exceed 0.22 euro cents and pots should not exceed 6.20 euros.

All cases involving violations of the law are heard before the Belgian courts.

Rob van der Gaast has a background in sports journalism. He worked for over seven years as the head of sports for Dutch National Radio and has developed new concepts for the TV and the gambling industry. Now he operates from Istanbul as an independent gambling research analyst. He specializes in European gambling matters and in privatizations of gambling operators. Rob has contributed to IGN since Jul 09, 2001.