Spain

Gambling operators in Spain will have to deal with new, stricter regulations in 2021 as the country’s Ministry of Consumer Affairs continues the rollout of new measures that started in 2020.
Some of the most important changes will see the implementation of and better control over advertising restrictions that came into force late last year, as well as increased licensing fees for the operators.

Temporary Measures Turn Permanent

In the first quarter of 2020, Spain introduced a series of advertising restrictions for private gambling companies.

First, advertising hours on TV and radio were limited to between 1:00 AM and 5:00 AM for all operators offering online casino games, sports betting, and online poker in Spanish.

Employing public figures to advertise gambling products was also forbidden under these restrictions, and the operators received strict guidelines pertaining to the language that can be used in adverts.

Then, in April, the country reconfirmed all of the previous measures and introduced some new ones, explaining the motivation behind these actions as wanting to protect the Spanish people during the Covid-19 pandemic.

These temporary measures were then introduced into permanent regulations and Spain sent the new set of laws to the European Commission for the approval.

Finally, in October, all sports clubs were notified that they must end their sponsorship deals with any gambling operators by the end of the season 2020/21.

New Measures Remain Despite the Uproar

The increasingly strict set of gambling regulations for licensed operators in Spain created a lot of turmoil in the gaming industry as the key stakeholders continue to warn the government that these measures will not achieve the desired goal.

Many in the industry believe that advertising restrictions as well as limitations on bonus offers for new and existing players will simply push players towards unregulated operators who do not have to play by the book and are under no obligation to adhere to local laws.

The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) has also warned Spanish decision-makers that their advertising restrictions might be in violation of EU competition guidelines, especially since two state-run lotteries are exempt from these rules.

The EGBA also concluded that, while Spain’s actions to protect the citizens from gambling-related issues were commendable, they were not based on real evidence as the country has a remarkably low number of problem gamblers.

Despite the pushback coming from within the country and from the EU, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs seems set on the implementation of new rules as they were originally proposed and adopted in 2020, with the creation of the national self-exclusion register the first priority in 2021.

Jdigital, the country’s gambling industry association that gathers almost all important operators in Spain, has warned the government that these efforts will fail as well as players will move over to unregulated sites, which will create the opposite effect, putting the most vulnerable categories at even greater risk.

So far, all pleas have fallen to deaf ears as the government continues to ignore all the warnings. It will be interesting to see what happens in the months to come as the new set of restrictions comes into full force, as these changes are bound to make a big dent in privately-owned gaming companies