The Lottery can reopen, but not the betting agencies. Outrageous!
Because of the covid, betting stores are closed. This makes the private sector angry. On the other hand, the provincial centers, the "Lotery Shops", of the National Lottery have reopened every time since the beginning of the crisis. And there is disbelief and a feeling of unfairness that overwhelms the private operators. "I want us to reopen our stores", claims Yannik Bellefroid, president of the Professional Union of Betting Agencies and CEO of Ladbrokes. "We do not play on equal terms. The government does not apply to the public service what it refuses to the private."
In addition, Yannik Bellefroid points out a danger hovering over the players: "One of the missions of the State is to protect them. However, when legal operators are closed, they turn to illegal betting sites. The government sponsors the black economy. Today, we manage to shut down Trump's Twitter accounts but the Belgian state fails to limit illegal betting activities."
Unibet, Ladbrokes, Bingoal, Ardent Circus, Napoleon Games, to name a few, are drinking the cup: "I fear for our independent commission agents. Betting agencies but also cafes, casinos. Regional aid is not enough."
The sector also fears for its licenses...
In fact, a legal betting operator must be solid to ensure the players' winnings. It must therefore be able to prove a solvency ratio. Basically, this ratio is calculated by adding up the equity and guarantees paid to the Gaming Commission, then dividing it by the total assets. This ratio must be maintained throughout the term of the license (9 years).
The minimum ratio to be reached is 30% for providers of "land-based" betting, or even 40% to be able to organize betting on the Internet, which operators have always been able to do during the crisis. "However, Covid has melted the income especially because of the closure of betting agencies for many months" said Benoît Piedbœuf (MR).
In case of non-compliance with the requirement, a file is opened with the Commission. A sanction may lead to the outright withdrawal of the licence.
"For 2020, or even 2021 depending on the duration of the crisis, account will obviously be taken of the situation, a case of force majeure, which calls for a certain flexibility and tolerance", commented the Minister of Justice, Vincent Van Quickenborne. "However, in order to avoid abuses, attention will be paid to companies that have nevertheless paid dividends to shareholders. Experience shows that these are more likely to be foreign companies."
"This is a lot of hot air," reacts Yannik Bellefroid. The minister reassures then threatens. "At Ladbrokes, our structure is solid and international. But for the small agencies, the threat hangs in the air."
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