Spain’s Gambling Ecosystem To Undergo a Shift Following Approval of New Legislation

Posted on: October 29, 2022, 09:14h. 

Last updated on: October 29, 2022, 07:38h.

On October 26, the Health and Consumer Affairs Committee of Spain’s Senate gave the green light to a bill that will introduce several changes to the country’s gambling industry. With that committee’s approval, the Senate stepped up and followed suit, and the bill is now becoming law.

Alberto Núñez Feijoo intervenes in the Senate debate before Pedro Sánchez, Nadia Calviño and Yolanda Díaz
Spanish Senator Alberto Núñez Feijoo (left), talks in a Senate debate before (from right to left) Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, Deputy Prime Minister Nadia Calviño and Second Deputy Prime Minister Yolanda Díaz. The Senate just approved a bill that will update the country’s gambling laws following last month’s approval in the Chamber of Deputies. (Image: EuroPress)

The legislation introduces fundamental changes to how gaming operators approach responsible gambling. It improves user protections, making it much more difficult for minors or people with problems and addictions to gamble.

In addition, it also forces an increase in the oversight of sports events. This is an effort to combat match-fixing, as well as better fraud.

Cleaning Up the Gambling Industry

Spain has one of the safest gambling markets, according to a number of studies. Still, Minister of Consumer Affairs Alberto Garzón is on a singular mission to clean it up even more.

The reform the Senate approved this week reinforces control over the sports world through the Global Betting Market Research Service (Sigma, for its Spanish acronym). This gives the country’s gaming regulator, the Directorate General for the Regulation of Gambling, more control. It also extends the protection of at-risk players and of addictive behaviors.

Sigma is a technical instrument that has been established as an interactive cooperation network. It is accessible electronically for all gaming operators and other entities, such as the security forces and the Higher Sports Council, as well as sports federations and professional leagues.

The reforms found support from 146 Senators, while there were 113 abstentions. In addition, the Senate rejected 22 amendments that made it to the floor during Wednesday’s session.

Among the proposals legislators presented as the discussion was entering its final lap was the approval of a national plan of action in the gaming sector. The idea was to establish homogeneous criteria in relation to the prevention of users and advertising, and guarantee freedom of enterprise in the market economy.

Another proposal wanted to raise the tax rate of the gaming sector to 30%. Other lawmakers wanted to introduce a series of age controls before consumers could play, as well as daily loss limits. All of these amendments failed to find enough support.

Some of the amendments were welcome. However, the controlling party in the Senate, the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, rejected them over concerns they may harm agreements with Spain’s autonomous communities.

Gambling Ads Face New Restrictions

One of the biggest takeaways from the approved law concerns advertising. The country had introduced a crackdown during COVID-19 over fears the lockdown would lead to an increase in gambling. Some of those rules are now going to be permanent.

As has been the case in other countries that implemented advertising restrictions, Spanish operators have to create “vanilla” advertising. Ads and spots cannot promote gambling as having benefits for one’s social status or economic stability. In addition, they cannot incorporate money or luxury goods in the marketing.

The legislation also touched on loot boxes, which are digital boxes in video games that offer additiona weapons or avatar skins for a price. As Spain explores whether or not these equate to a form of gambling, the bill made sure the door is open so the government can go in any direction.

The final step for the bill to become law is for it to be published in Spain’s Official State Gazette. Once that happens, which will occur in the coming weeks, the law will take effect the following day.