Spanish Senate approves gambling reforms

Spain
Spain

The legislation introduces new rules for gambling ads and online casinos and a central database on illicit gambling.

Spain.- The Spanish Senate has approved new gambling reforms. The amendments to the country’s 2011 Gambling Act were passed with 146 votes in favour against 113 abstentions. 

One of the most significant results of the legislation will be the creation of a Global Betting Market Research Service (SIGMA). Operated by the Spanish gambling regulator, the DGOJ, the centrally controlled database will be used to record “persons involved in illicit gambling activities or betting and gambling-related fraud”. 

Information from SIGMA will be provided to the police, licensed gaming operators, sports federations, professional leagues, regional authorities, and “all entities interested in eradicating fraud and manipulation of sports”.

The legislation also includes new advertising rules put forward by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs to build upon last year’s Royal Decree on Advertising. The 2021 decree prohibited gambling sponsorships in sports and prohibited TV and radio advertising outside of a window between 1am and 5am.  

Now operators will have to comply with new rules to ensure ads are “socially responsible”. This is defined as not including inappropriate, anti-social or discriminatory content and not suggesting that gambling can enhance well-being or lifestyle.

Meanwhile, online gaming operators must provide customers with safer gambling information when they enter a website or app. This must include details on self-exclusion, gambling support helplines and gambling control tools. 

The online gambling trade association Jdigital has urged the government to review Spain’s gambling advertising ban to make it fairer and more proportionate. Its call comes after the Supreme Court ruled that the advertising restrictions should be subject to a constitutional review.

As for self-exclusion, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs will be mandated to create a National Registry for Self-Exclusion to operate across all 17 of Spain’s autonomous communities. The enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla will use the registry as a requirement for online gambling licensees. 

Meanwhile, Spain’s General Law on Consumer Protections will be applied to gambling for use in the mediation of disputes. Infringements of the law can be penalised with fines of up to €10,000 for minor breaches and up to €1m for more serious cases. Gambling businesses that commit serious failings could also have their licences suspended. 

New rules for online casino

For online casino games and slots, players will be required to set their own limits for session times and spending. Players won’t be able to change their selected limits for 24 hours after setting them. Operators’ customer care teams must provide players with details of their gaming sessions, including the time spent gaming, money spent and losses.

Online casino games will also be prohibited from displaying messages or tabs such as “play again”, “one more time”, or “you were close to winning!”, which are deemed to promote intensive play. 

Spanish gambling revenue was down by 5.6 per cent year-on-year in the second quarter, coming in at €203.9m. The drop was due to low sports betting margins, which caused revenue to fall despite an 8.6 per cent increase in stakes.

Operators held on to less than 2.5 per cent of stakes in the quarter. Sports betting stakes rose 5 per cent year-on-year. However, sports betting revenue was down by a third year-on-year and by 6.7 per cent sequentially at €60.9m. There were low margins across all bet types: 2.6 per cent for pre-game bets, 1.8 per cent on in-game bets and 4.8 per cent on horse racing.

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