Gross gambling revenue in Belgium fell by 17.8% year-on-year during the 2020-21 financial year due to restrictions on land based venues caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Figures published by the Belgian Gaming Commission (Kansspelcommissie) showed that the country’s regulated market revenue was €969.1 million, up from €1.18 billion in 2019-20 and €1.12 billion in 2018. -19.
Around €595.6 million of the total was attributed to online gaming, up 27.9% year-on-year, while land-based gaming revenue was down 47.7% year-on-year for 373.2 million euros.
This marked the first time online gaming contributed more to revenue than in-person gaming, with the split of 61.5% for online gaming and 38.5% for retail.
With an even bigger drop in annual performance, online casino revenue reached 277.9 million euros, representing 46.6% of the year’s total online revenue. Online slot machines generated €156.8 million in revenue, 26.3% more than the previous year, while sports betting revenue jumped 27.1% to €161.2 million.
The drop in retail gambling in Belgium
The decline in retail-related numbers was due to restrictive measures at land-based betting venues such as casinos and betting shops, as the Belgian government sought to slow the spread of Covid-19 during the height of the pandemic.
Land sports betting was the main source of revenue in this market, generating a total of €123.6 million in revenue, or 33.1% of all retail revenue.
Looking at other key numbers in the report, Kansspelcommissie noted that 576,493 consumers played online at least once a week during the year, up from 502,738 in 2019-20. The average number of unique players on licensed sites also increased from 113,302 a year earlier to 136,888.
Over the course of the year, a total of 162,985 new players signed up to play online. In contrast, retail visitors dropped from 11,167 to 10,684, which number also dropped significantly from 15,710 in 2019-20, before the pandemic.
Furthermore, it was revealed that 122 websites were added to the list of illegal operators in Belgium, while 60 volunteered to block access to Belgian players.
“2021 was marked by the ongoing health crisis and successive closures that again hit brick-and-mortar gaming establishments hard, having already seen their gross margin drop by 47% in 2020,” said Kansspelcommissie President Magali Clavie.
“Online gaming has really grown. In 2021, there were an average of 136,888 players online per day, twice as many as three years ago. This form of gaming now far surpasses physical gaming for the first time and deserves special attention because it is more accessible, both in space and time, and may represent a risk factor for bettors”.
“Therefore, it is more necessary than ever to protect online players and punters by providing them with a safe and controlled gaming environment.”
“Such an objective requires that every effort be made to prevent them from being tempted, knowingly or not, to resort to an increasingly aggressive and illegal offer that does not offer them any protection and undermines the channeling policy”, concluded Clavie.