The introduction of new laws in Spain covering the advertising of online gambling has continued as the pandemic lockdown has been eased, and has come in for significant criticism.
This weekend, a senior figure in the Spanish gambling industry, Eduardo Morales of consultancy iGamingCo, has criticised the main aspects of the reform.
According to Morales, there was a clear need for the government of Spain to continue with the process of regulating advertising in the online gambling industry. But he also argued that it was not appropriate to do so at this time, given that thousands of citizens are still in hospital and parts of the country are re-entering lockdown amid deteriorating economic conditions.
Morales cited figures that showed that there were over three million workers laid off temporarily with another one million redundancies, and the economic circumstances effectively made it a state of emergency. He also referred to the widespread negative view of the gambling industry in official government circles, despite the fact that only 0.3% of consumers have gambling problems, and argued for a sense of proportion in the way that the industry was regulated and criticised the approach of the current government:
“Without consultation with an industry that is self-constrained and protecting the vulnerable with strong measures of responsible gambling, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs decides that a crusade against a properly regulated gambling activity is a priority, restricting or prohibiting advertising and promotions.”
Morales pointed out that the new regulations are aimed at private companies and as such, ignore the highest volume of gambling in the country, which occurs through public gaming bodies such as the National Lotteries SELAE or with charity lotteries like ONCE.
The Spanish government’s amended draft of the proposed new law, which was updated two weeks ago, contained more restrictive rules than the original draft, which came out in February. Morales said that there were many worrying aspects of the newest proposals, including the discrimination against private gambling, while at the same time ring-fencing public gambling operators. He claimed that this was against Article 38 of the Spanish Constitution and the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, and highlighted a warning issued in 2019 by the European Commission, which said that member states should promote rules that treat public and private gambling the same.
Morales added that the online gambling and betting business in the country is a legally-established sector, which has been praised for its access, activity control and problem gambling safeguards. He also said that the new proposals would simply encourage customers to seek out illegal gambling sites, which were able to operate without the restrictions of the legal sector.
The proposals include a number of restrictions, including a ban on the advertising and promotion of online gaming and betting outside of the hours of 01:00 and 05:00, and a ban on the use of well known figures to promote gambling sites, along with a sports sponsorship ban.