COVID-19: Spain to Enact Strict Gambling Ad Measures

  • Council of Ministers approved temporary restrictions to fast-track decree due to lockdown
  • Radio, TV, and online commercials will only be allowed between 1am and 5am
  • Spain will now have the harshest gambling advertising restrictions in Europe
  • Reports of increased gambling activity led Consumer Affairs Ministry to push for player protection
  • Measures could deal a severe blow to operators hit hard by sporting event cancellations
Spain coronavirus lockdown
Concern for gamblers during lockdown has led Spain to bring forward the strict gambling advertising measures it approved in February. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Protecting gamblers during lockdown

The Spanish government will bring forward harsher restrictions on gambling advertising to ensure operators don’t take advantage of new online customers during the coronavirus lockdown. The decision was made during an emergency meeting held on Tuesday by the Council of Ministers to tackle concerns over the COVID-19 crisis.

adverts for four hours a day between 1am and 5am

As part of the temporary ‘social shield’ provisions approved by Spain’s ministers, gambling providers will now only be allowed to show adverts for four hours a day between 1am and 5am.

The regulatory measures were approved in February as part of a Royal Decree based on the recommendations of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs. However, their implementation was set to be delayed until the start of the new football season in August.

Specifics of the new measures

The fast-tracking of the decree will see gambling adverts limited to just a four-hour window across radio, TV, and internet platforms, with the content to also undergo heavy scrutiny.

new regulations will make the country one of the harshest in Europe

There will be zero tolerance of special bonuses and other promotions that could entice customers to online gambling sites. Encouragement to bet online is prohibited, while online bonuses will be restricted to $100. The new regulations will make the country one of the harshest in Europe when it comes to gambling advertising.

Consumer Affairs Ministry concerned

Online gambling in Spain is still active despite the cancellation of main sporting events due to the pandemic. Recent operators’ reports of increased online poker and casino activity led the Consumer Affairs Ministry to monitor for a rise in problem gambling cases since the beginning of the nationwide lockdown.

The ministry, which looks at gambling regulatory development, recommended moving up the planned restrictions to protect vulnerable customers in isolation. Following approval on Tuesday, the government is now expected to fast-track the Royal Decree to enforce the four-hour window from today.

Spain is currently suffering the second-heaviest loss of life in all of Europe due to the coronavirus. Lockdown measures are currently in place until April 12 and could still be extended further, depending on how the situation develops.

Enforcement “a severe blow”

According to a statement by the Spanish Digital Gaming Association (Jdigital), the imminent online advertising limits present

a severe blow to a sector that is already suffering notably the effects of the coronavirus crisis.”

With sports betting accounting for 50% of online betting in Spain, operators have been hit hard by the cancellation of almost all sporting competitions worldwide. Gross gaming revenue had already been shrinking in Spain before the COVID-19 crisis.

Jdigital added: “This sudden drop in income is in addition to the contraction that the sector has been experiencing in recent months. Our sector is highly regulated and we have control and security measures specially designed to protect the most vulnerable groups.”