Spain’s Controversial Gambling Advertising Laws are Approved
Spain’s proposed gambling advertising laws are a step closer after the plans were approved by the country’s Council of State. The plans have attracted criticism both domestically and internationally.
The Royal Decree on Commercial Communications of Gambling Activities has passed one of the final hurdles to it becoming law. The Council of State unanimously approved the controversial proposal on Tuesday; the European Commission had previously approved the Decree.
The changes in regulations, when brought into law, will mirror those that came into effect in Italy who banned all gambling advertising except for the state-run lottery.
Spanish Minister of Consumer Affairs Alberto Garzon, who introduced the Royal Decree, said the changes were needed as there was currently no regulation on the advertising of the game. He added, “until now we have lived in the law of the jungle, where anything can be done.”
After the Council approved the changes in regulations, the ministry confirmed that the law would be enacted as soon as an announcement is made in the official gazette of the Kingdom of Spain (Boletín Oficial del Estado). Operators who fail to comply with the new regulations face severe financial penalties with fines of at least €100,000 (£90451) and potentially up to €1m (£900k).
The new regulations will have a major impact on sport in the country with football being hit particularly hard. In Spain’s top-flight league, La Liga, 17 of the 20 teams have shirt sponsorship deals with betting companies. The league itself has strong links with Sportium, a betting company which is the league’s official betting platform. When the new regulations come into place, these types of deals will be prohibited under Spanish law.
Alberto Garzon wrote to 25 football clubs last month warning them that any deals with gambling companies would be illegal from next season. He wrote:
“This ministry has had evidence that the club you represent has started in the last weeks a commercial sponsorship relationship with a company that will be affected by the new rules for a longer duration than this season,” “Thus, we make it clear that from the moment the Royal Decree enters into force, that contract will be outside the established by law, therefore, please bear in mind this fact in order to adapt your sponsorship relationship”, he continued.
Reports in the Spanish press claim that a grace period of up to 30 August will be in place to enable clubs to find new sponsors.
Not surprisingly, the trade association that represents Spain’s betting companies Jdigital is strongly against the new regulations.
The Association called a press conference and accused the government of being on an “ideological crusade” to introduce damaging new restrictions on the country’s gambling market.
Jdigital’s CEO Andrea Vota said, “The consequences in economic terms to the Spanish market could be devastating,”. Adding:
We had a much better relationship with the previous government, which had looked to implement softer reforms which would not cripple the industry, but we’ve had virtually no communication with this government which has not answered our calls.– Andrea Vota, Jdigital CEO
It is believed that Jdigital is planning to launch a lawsuit against the Royal Decree and possibly against the DGOJ regulator as well.
The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) has backed Jdigital’s fight against the Royal Decree, stating that the new regulations are discriminatory.
The Association highlights the fact that state-owned lotteries are exempt from these new regulations. The EGBA cited data provided by the Spanish Association of Advertisers (AEA), which showed that state-run lotteries accounted for a third of the country’s total gambling spend.