Prevalence of Underage Gambling in Belgium

At present there are no available statistics on the actual involvement of underage gamblers in Belgium but the Gaming Commission in Belgium and its police force have warned about the growing gambling incidence among its young.

In The Netherlands poker is reportedly the favorite among young people ages 15 to 25. In a study on youth gambling in the area, the past year registered more than 800,000 young people avidly playing poker. About 31 percent of them play poker several times a month at 3.5 hour each week. About a fourth of these adolescents enjoy playing on the Internet and half of them play several times per month.

The real sorry news is that a fourth of these 800,000 (about 200,000) find online poker very addictive. This is the observed pattern of most underage gamblers. They first try out online poker with free money. They would also try out the game with play money. Play money enable these youths to enjoy the excitement of the game without risking real money. These are designed, some studies insist, to lure young people into trying the game on a higher level.

Of course, the height of excitement always have the tendency to go over what free games provide—like the principle of diminishing returns. Soon free games fail to satisfy the thrill that gamblers seek. So the youths are lured eventually to try real money games. Poker sites always challenge players on free games to take their play to the next level. The free games hone the skill level of novices like young players to prepare them for the real thing.

In Belgium underage people are prohibited from real bets. In fact, Internet gambling is outlawed altogether. But the laws cannot really check actual gambling online especially when the reality is that Internet gambling goes beyond borders or country jurisdictions. It's easy to lay down rules but impossible to run after culprits—propagators of online gaming.

Establishing an online gaming company may not be possible in Belgium but poker and gambling sites can easily secure permits abroad and then use the Internet legally. What can stop them from appearing online even within Belgian territory?

In fact, it was found that land based lottery alone can sell tickets to minors from 8 out of 10 ticketing outlets. If this cannot be efficiently checked, how much more online gaming? Stopping underage gamblers seems a formidable task, if not impossible. There must be better ways to regulate online underage gambling than merely outlawing it.