The Belgian Expertise Center for Alcohol and Other Drugs (VAD) has issued a memorandum citing nine priorities for 2024, among which is the increase of legal sports betting age from 18 to 21.
The organization, which offers expertise in the areas of alcohol, narcotics, and gambling addictions, believes that increasing the gambling age to 21 across the board would help prevent young adults from falling into the traps of problem gambling at a very sensitive age.
According to Gamblingnisider.com, the memorandum has also called for healthcare amendments which would include addictive behaviors in insurance policies and allow those inflicted to seek out help at the expense of the state.
The VAD continues its mission to battle problem gambling and reduce the numbers of youth exposed to addictive behaviors to the minimum as online gambling industry continues to thrive in Belgium.
Sports Betting and Other Gambling Not Synchronized
Reading that a European country is looking to increase the age for legal sports betting to 21 may seem a little strange, as the age of 18 is considered fully adult in many European countries.
However, Belgian law does not allow persons under the age of 21 to engage in online casino games or enter a live casino venue in the country, but allows individuals over the age of 18 to engage in all other types of games of chance.
At this time, games like lottery and sports betting remain available to young adults between the ages of 18 and 21, and VAD believes these may be serving as a gateway to the world of gambling and triggers for addictive gambling behaviors.
Citing the 2022 World Cup alone, VAD has stated that 43,000 new sports betting accounts were opened in Belgium during the event, most of them by the persons under the age of 30.
By increasing the gambling age to 21, the VAD hopes to prevent some of the youth from engaging with gambling too early, thus preventing them from becoming problem gamblers in the future.
The increase of sports betting age to 21 is only one of the suggestions made by VAD, whose ultimate goal is to prevent access to gambling, drugs, and alcohol across the nation, and rid Belgium of addiction as much as possible.
Just last year, Belgium banned all gambling advertisements as one of the numerous measures against problem gambling issued by the government over the last few years.
Gaming Operators Doing Their Part
While gambling operators have often failed to protect players from problem gambling in the past, moves in this direction are being seen by operators in many jurisdictions in the recent past.
Just last November, the six biggest gaming operators in Belgium formed the Belgian Association of Gaming Operators (BAGO), giving themselves a mandate to increase the level of care and protection for players across the country.
The Association, which is made up of big names like Kindred, Ardent Group, and Betfirst, has taken on a mission of detecting problem gamblers, communicating with them, and helping both players and operator staff do a better job of preventing problem gambling in its roots.
According to BAGO’s vice-president Emmanuel Mewissen, the Association was created in response to the attempts of the Belgian political elite to demonize and discredit the gambling sector in the years leading up to BAGO’s formation.
Regardless of the reasons, the founding of BAGO and the ever-watchful eye of VAD are both likely to help Belgian youth bet on sports in a more responsible manner and avoid the risks and dangers that are often associated with gambling as a whole.