Ladbrokes’ Belgian virtual sports under EC investigation

Posted on September 22, 2020

The European Commission has launched an investigation into whether Ladbrokes has been allowed a monopoly in virtual sports betting in Belgium. Other operators have claimed that the Belgian Gaming Commission had given Ladbrokes an unfair advantage. This is because the commission refused requests from Belgium’s other operators to feature virtual sports.

As a result, the European Commission will investigate whether Ladbrokes had received the equivalent to illegal state aid. The investigation will look at whether competition was unfairly distorted in Ladbrokes’ favour. All interested parties and the Belgian state will now be invited to submit evidence to support their claims.

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Did Ladbrokes get a virtual sports monopoly in Belgium?

Ladbrokes runs 300 betting shops in Belgium under the Darby brand name. These betting shops introduced virtual sports in February 2014. The bookmaker’s online service started featuring virtual sports betting options as of March 2015.

Two rival betting brands in Belgium supposedly applied to get rights for virtual betting in 2015 and 2016. However, these competitors failed to receive approval for virtual sports betting from the Belgian Gaming Commission.

This is because there was no regulatory framework for virtual betting at the time. But by allowing Ladbrokes to continue its virtual betting service, it has been felt that the commission gave this operator an unfair advantage.

The competitors seeking fair virtual sports betting

There have been two operators who have been instrumental in bringing the case against Ladbrokes. Rocoluc NV was the first to make a complaint against Ladbrokes’ virtual betting options. The Belgian Coffee Federation followed this up by stating that its bingo revenues had been halved since Ladbrokes started offering virtual bets.

Has the Belgian Gaming Commission acted unfairly?

The Belgian Gaming Commission has had to work hard to keep up with the innovations in online gambling. Not only are there new betting options like esports betting to contend with, but virtual sports blurs the line between traditional sports bets and online gaming.

As such, the commission was slow to set up the legal framework for monitoring this new kind of betting activity. 2017 saw the Belgian Gaming Commission introduce regulation that would limit losses on virtual betting. But the Ladbrokes subsidiary Darby continued to feature virtual betting well into 2018 despite having lost its authorisation for the activity.

This resulted in Darby being punished by having to halt betting operations for a 24-hour period. Since then, the Belgian government has included virtual betting in its list of permitted gambling entertainments. However, the ongoing fight between Ladbrokes and the Belgian Coffee Federation has meant that the European Commission has now been called in.

What virtual sports are featured at Ladbrokes?

The Ladbrokes website features many of the most popular virtual sports betting options. These include simulations of horse racing that include some of the biggest races such as the Grand National. Other racing virtual sports at Ladbrokes include greyhound racing and motorsports. Ladbrokes also allows its customers to bet on virtual soccer simulations.

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Gianfranco Capozzi

Gianfranco is an Editor-in-Chief and works as Head of Esports at Catena Media. Specializing in growth hacking and digital marketing areas, he has been working in relation to iGaming and financial services for the last 10 years. Follow him GFCapozzi

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