There has been a lot of development in the online casino industry over the years with more countries opening up their doors for business. Spain still has a very strict and one of the safest gambling markets in Europe, with a gambling problem rate of less than 1%. This doesn’t mean the government doesn’t continue its work towards tightening it even more.
New Advertising Restrictions in 2022
Spain’s Council of Ministers recently approved a royal decree on gambling that will enforce as many as 30 new responsible gaming measures. Already having implemented new advertising restrictions in 2022, this new decree had been proposed by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs.
Massive Fines Awaits
Minister of Consumer Affairs Alberto Garzón is the man leading the charge against online gambling and the new restrictions can lead to massive fines for any operator who violates them. We’re talking hefty fines of up to €50 million!
A Tighter Squeeze of the Spanish market
It was only last Friday that the new royal decree got the stamp of approval, meaning that things will get squeezed even tighter for the Spanish market moving forward.
Then again, you might not agree with all the steps being taken but I think all of us are in favor of a safer online environment.
Shift In Responsibility
We’ve been able to see a shift in responsibility in several markets. Whereas before, the responsibility of one’s gambling was always up to each player, a bigger part of it now lands on society as a whole.
Heavy Focus On Ages 18-25
Although the new measurements will affect all categories, the player demographic most in focus is minors between 18-25. According to the new gambling laws, players in this category will automatically be put in the “vulnerable” category of gamblers. This is due to them being extra sensitive to targeted marketing communication.
The Spanish government will define risk profiles by consumer spend. A player who accumulates a net loss of €600 or more over a 3 week period will be considered to be an intensive gambler.
Should the player in question be in the 18-25 category, that amount is lowered to €200 over the same period.
For operators, dealing with such players will come with a range of requirements.
National Self-Exclusion Register
The new rules will also include additional protections for players who have requested safer gambling restrictions on their casino accounts or have signed up to the national self-exclusion register.
Notification of Risky Behavior
If an operator were to detect any potentially harmful gambling behavior, deeming a player “at-risk”, it must send out a notification about it to the player in question. The operator must also provide a monthly summary of the gambling activity, including the number of logins, means of payments and account balance.
Even if you don’t have any problems, this information is also available to any category player but on a voluntary basis. If the player does not respond within 72 hours, the operator must suspend the player’s account.
Even though this is the new way of doing business, the fact that the government hasn’t laid out exactly how an operator is supposed to make the determination will be interesting to watch.
Exempt from Promotions or VIP Treatment
For as long as a player is considered “at-risk”, he/she won’t be able to make deposits using a credit card. However, it is allowed to use bank transfers or any other payment solution.
During this time, operators are prohibited from sending these players any promotional material. Also, they are not allowed to be a part of a VIP program.
Since players in the 18-25 category are considered extra vulnerable, operators are not allowed to target them with marketing either, unless they have previously interacted with the casino.
No More Close Call Marketing
Another interesting part of the new laws is regarding how you are allowed to market gambling. As a player you may have gotten messages or notifications saying things such as “you were so close to winning” or “that was almost a win”.
These types of contact will no longer be allowed as they are considered being too tantalizing for some players according to the new decree.
Stick to the Rules or Pay Up
I briefly mentioned the heavy fines in the beginning and any operator that breaks them can count on being hit with various sanctions and the government is promising to keep a close eye on the action.
As always, there will be different levels of punishment. For a serious infraction, an operator could be fined up to €1 million plus a 6 months suspension of the gaming license.
Should the infraction be deemed “very serious”, the penalties could instead be as high as €50 million and a potential permanent loss of a license.
Rules to Be Implemented in 6 Months
Normally it will take around 6 months until the new rules will be implemented. The new decree also consists of some regulations around certain technological complexities. These regulations may take as long as 12 months until they are fully enforced.
The Casino Industry Disagrees
As expected, the royal decree is receiving quite a bit of criticism from the Spanish Online Operator Association – JDigital. Already having one of the strictest regulations of all European markets, operators don’t see a need for all of the new rules.
“We consider that this Royal Decree responds to a tendency of the national regulator to regulate activities that are already hyper-regulated, where the measures and good practices of the operators have contributed to having truly secure environments and frameworks,” said JDigital.
Although they would agree to certain parts of the decree, the overall feedback on the new rules wasn’t very positive.
JDigital continued by saying that:
“Regulation cannot be an obstacle to sending political, confusing and alarmist messages to society, about a perfectly safe sector, according to government data and in comparison with neighboring countries, and already battered after the entry into force of the Royal Decree of Commercial Communications”.
JDigital also expressed concern over certain aspects of the decree, such as “age limitations and player economic limits”. This simply does not take into account the individual circumstance of each player, which I can agree with.
What’s Coming Next?
That’s a question we are all wondering so let’s continue to keep an eye on how things will develop not only in Spain, but in all other markets as well.