Problem Gambling the Biggest Target of Spain’s Ministry of Consumer Affairs

Posted on: October 12, 2022, 06:49h. 

Last updated on: October 12, 2022, 12:22h.

Spain’s government wants to take a closer look at the gambling industry, with a specific focus on problem gambling. To do so, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs of Spain (MCE, for its Spanish acronym) wants to allocate most of its budget to the issue.

Minister of Consumer Affairs Alberto Garzón
Spain’s Minister of Consumer Affairs Alberto Garzón appears in a meeting of the Health Commission of the Congress of Deputies. The government figure continues to place gambling reform at the top of his list of priorities. (Image: Europa Press)

Alberto Garzón, who heads the ministry, plans to increase his office’s budget by 11.38% in 2023. He’s already working with €63.6 million (US$61.74 million). But there’s another €5.7 million (US$5.53 million) the government department receives through special allocations.

Garzón, who gained oversight of Spain’s gaming industry last year, now wants another €6.5 million (US$6.31 million) for 2023, according to a draft of the General State Budget. If the budget is approved, the MCE could have more than €76 million (US$71.8 million) with which to work.

Consumer Demand Driving Budget Increase

The MCE said the strong growth experienced by increased oversight of gambling regulations in 2022 will continue through next year. It cited figures that show a year-on-year increase of 66.08% over 2021.

It anticipates another 9.45% increase through 2023. The main items the MCE targets through its efforts are those aimed at avoiding problematic and fraudulent behaviors, increasing scientific knowledge, and detecting risky behaviors in gambling.

The budget for the research and prevention of gambling disorders and their effects would go from €1.1 million to €2.2 million (US$1.06 million to $2.13 million). This represents an increase of 102%.

The main expenditure of the office next year will be financing research projects for the prevention of gambling disorders. Garzón and his office have spent most of this year already addressing problem gambling. The MCE has been looking for ways to unify Spain’s 17 autonomous communities to provide a more streamlined policy and they’ve seen some success.

However, communities are still able to develop their own rules and regulations. Several, including Madrid, Navarre, and Valencia, have already done so, while others are working on making changes.

Problem Gambling Under Control

The changes come in spite of a relatively low level of gambling addiction in the country. Spain’s Carlos III University conducted a survey last year and found that, in 2020, the country had the lowest rate of problem gambling in Europe. It holds a tie for first place with Denmark.

Based on an industry-standard gauge, the problem gambling severity index, Spain’s problem gambling penetration is only 0.25%. Even so, the government wants to inject millions of euros more into addressing gambling harms.

The survey also found that there was no significant rise in online gaming when retail gambling venues shut down over COVID-19. The number of players at bingo and gaming halls, casinos, and retail betting shops fell 50% year on year to 3.8 million. That’s only around 11% of Spain’s adult population.

Garzón Not Limiting His Options

There are two other segments where Garzón wants to spend more money. One of them covers the expenses related to the organization and coordination of the activities linked to the next rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union.

That council is comprised of ministers of the European Union member states. Its goal is to control the EU budget alongside Parliament, as well as international agreements. That vote will take place in the second half of next year.

The last segment focuses on something that impacts all Spaniards. Garzón wants to increase the essential services of laboratories for the oversight and control of the quality of food and non-food consumer goods.