Spain’s Gambling Regulator Issued $132M in Fines in 2022

Posted on: April 25, 2023, 03:31h. 

Last updated on: April 25, 2023, 05:24h.

Spain’s Ministry of Consumer Affairs (MCA) announced Monday how much it fined gaming operators it determined broke the rules last year. The MCA said it charged 20 operators with “serious or very serious” infractions in the year’s second half, taking the balance for the entire year to €120 million (US$132.63 million).

Spain's Minister of Consumer Affairs Alberto Garzón speaks to lawmakers
Spain’s Minister of Consumer Affairs Alberto Garzón speaks to lawmakers. His office announced it collected over $132 million in fines from gaming operators last year. (Image: Agencia EFE)

Most of the sanctions imposed in the latter half of the year fell on seven operators. The MCA’s data showed they committed “very serious” violations, which led to the closure of their web portals, disqualification for a period of two years, and a sanction of €5 million (US$5.52 million) each.

The government agency didn’t specify the names of the entities. It controls Spain’s gaming industry through the Directorate General for Gambling Regulation (DGOJ, for its Spanish acronym), which has been increasing its oversight in recent years.

In addition to the “very serious” violations, another 13 online betting and casino operators committed serious offenses during the year’s second half. As a result, they paid a combined €560,000 (US$618,968).

Of these, nine were penalized for failing to comply with laws on gambling advertising. They received written warnings or fines of €10,000 (US$11,053) each.

2022 Sets New Record

Four others received fines of between €125,000 and €160,000 (US$138,162 and $176,848) for allowing self-excluded players to access their platforms or for failing to comply with technical requirements.

The DGOJ maintains a Register of Gambling Access Bans, which allows consumers to sign up if they want to be cut off from gambling. It covers land-based and online platforms, and all gaming operators are responsible for monitoring the list.

In the first half of 2022, the MCA revealed 53 sanctions against as many gaming operators as possible. It also forced the closure of 21 web portals for “very serious” offenses and fined them €84.3 million (US$93.17 million). As a result, the fines the DGOJ collected last year were more than double that of 2021. In 2021, 19 operators received fines totaling €58 million (US$64.1 million).

The ministry said it publishes the results to ensure transparency of the gaming industry and the ministry’s own activity. It added that the published data makes it easier for consumers to know which platforms are in good standing and to avoid those that aren’t.

The DGOJ just recently began publishing detailed information on its enforcement activity. This occurred only after the agency received backlash for not providing the data publicly.

Online Gaming Continues to Grow

The online gaming sector is an important economic engine in Spain. In 2022, online gambling spending totaled €29.97 million (US$33.12 million). Gross gaming revenue for the year was €962.96 million (US$1.06 billion), 12% more than in the previous year.

This growth comes as political parties in Spain implement new laws for the online segment. In August 2021, a new regulatory framework redefined the advertising of online gambling and betting. Since then, online casinos cannot offer new customers welcome bonuses and promotions like free spins or no-deposit bonuses, a practice still legal in other European countries. As the data shows, its removal from Spain’s market hasn’t caused the segment to constrict.

Last March, the country’s Council of Ministers approved a new set of laws to cover safer gaming. This included the obligation of operators to send a warning message for every hour of play and gave consumers the right to receive monthly reports on their activity. It also required consumers to establish a spending cap and a ban on messages by operators that encourage continued play.