This Monday Ladbrokes agencies in Belgium do not offer bets to their customers. The sanction imposed by the Gaming Commission will be applied by the operator, who nevertheless intends to leave his agencies open, and who will challenge the measure before the Council of State. The CEO Yannik Bellefroid explains why and points to the paradox of a legal framework that varies depending on whether you are betting on a "hard" or online.
This Monday 3 September is a day like no other for the 300 gaming agencies operated in Belgium by Ladbrokes (a subsidiary of the GVC group). For 24 hours they can not offer their products to their customers.
The Gaming Commission (CJH), the regulator of the sector, has indeed sanctioned the two companies of the group, Derby and Tiercé Ladbrokes, by imposing the suspension of the activity of one day. The reason? At the end of last year and early this year they continued to offer bets on virtual sports competitions, while according to the CJH they were no longer allowed. Meanwhile, the legal imbalance weighed on this market segment has been lifted by the federal government: the Royal Decree of 9 May authorizes bets on virtual games, which he now defines as a game of chance automatically ("gaming") and more like betting ("gambling"). ). In front of Yannik Bellefroid, CEO of the Belgian companies of the GVC groupthis penalty is undeserved.
In higher appeal
"In the first place he said, it is rather surprising to impose a sanction for the exploitation of a game that is currently approved and of which the minister (Koen Geens, Justice, Ed) had announced for more than a year that it would be permitted. Ladbrokes then decided to take action against this sanction in view of the serious procedural errors and the incorrect legal solution of the Commission. "
As a business leader, this decision annoys me especially for our independent managers …
In addition to other procedural errors, he points to the fact that the CJH ruled "based on different folders with secret documents to which access has been denied". "Our lawyers have complained and finally they have access to certain documents Is it normal that the rules for the use of languages are not respected in Belgium Many documents are monolingual, sometimes in French in Dutch, regardless of the majority of members from the Commission Is it normal for someone who publicly condemns us to be involved in the assessment of the case? The other person wanted to make a sanction decision against Ladbrokes at all costs. "
• Yannik Bellefroid, 46, married, 2 children
• Studies in sociology at the ULB than in law at the UCL
• Has joined Ladbrokes in 1999, He successively held the positions of Human Resources Manager, Legal Director, Retail Director before he became January 1, 2017 delegated administrator
• His hobbies & # 39; s: Brittany, reading and walking
• His motto: "Only we go faster, together we continue."
He will nevertheless apply the measure. "As an entrepreneur, this decision is particularly painful for our independent managers, who are paid by the committee and therefore will not win anything in principle that day. As a lawyer, I am amazed by this sanction. Our company believes that it has always respected the legal framework (remember that it was competent to develop its virtual gambling offer, so it has invested heavily with the approval of the Gaming Commission) and will appeal to the Council of State for the right to be respected. "
In particular, What will the managers of the independent agencies do Monday? "Our sales outlets are all open on 3 September, the CEO replies, but it is true that no bet can be validated there. We will respect the sanction, but we will take this opportunity to get to know our customers better and to make them aware of the practice of responsible gaming. " The operator intends to recover by encouraging its managers to inform and increase awareness.
The penalty is a great scoop for the GVC Group. In the past, Ladbrokes Belgium was sentenced to one sanction, but it concerned only one agency: 6 months closure for counting a minor with his clients. Recently, Yannik Bellefroid had to explain the situation to his parent company in London. "There is a reputational risk for a company that wants to do things in an impeccable way, advanced there. Our shareholders understand the problems and support our approach. They agree that it is politically necessary to respect the sanction, and that at the same time it must be combated at legal and administrative level because it is not in accordance with the law and we are faced with certain operators who want to harm a will. "
Is it normal for someone who publicly condemns us to participate in the assessment of the case? I have a sad feeling that one or other person wanted to make a sanction decision against Ladbrokes at all costs.
On the bottom, much legal uncertainty remains, because if the Royal Decree of 9 May is considering gambling on virtual events like gaming in & # 39; physical & # 39; agencies, it is not the same for the online offer, where they are still considered gambling. Some operators that offer online make it under license F1 + (organization of online bets, a priori reserved for betting), others have an A + license (online casino, gaming), which is surprising at least. "Online, most operators have been offering these kinds of bets for centuries, we have opened them in retail outlets in our branches in Belgium, and the CJH has confirmed that we have to offer them online. under license F1 +, but in the new royal decree we are not yet talking about the online segment. It is paradoxical: retail is hyper-regulating, while online is not. " This blurring continues? "We have no view on this situation. Legal uncertainty is the biggest problem facing the sector. It is a vector of incomprehension and a source of difficulty when one wants to evolve the product.
The leader agrees, however, that compared to the past, the sector is better marked. "From a political point of view it is clear that this is not an easy topic, which requires courage and determination, and Michel's government is the first in more than ten years to have the courage to get interested in the matter. gambling committee (her board of directors, editor) by giving her more resources, and I hope she will go in the right direction in a pragmatic way: efficient and professional, without any preconceived idea or witch hunt. should be supported in order to prevent the return of illegal actors, Belgian or foreign, which are very damaging to consumers and to the Belgian society as a whole. "