Spain Sports Betting Ad Ban to Come Into Force in October

  • Alberto Garzón said all gambling advertising, sporting event sponsorships will be prohibited
  • Soccer clubs will have a brief grace period to allow existing contracts to expire
  • Minister became increasingly vocal as sports betting deals continued to mushroom in September
  • He defended state-owned monopoly on lotteries, deeming them less harmful than online gambling
soccer referee raises flag
Minister Alberto Garzón has given sports clubs and their sponsors advance warning of an October start date for the online sports betting advertising ban. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Clubs to have a grace period

Spain’s Minister of Consumer Affairs Alberto Garzón has informed local radio station Onda Madrid that his government is banning online sports betting advertising in October.

Making the announcement on September 11, Garzón said: “All advertising for gambling and betting will be prohibited […] this also includes sponsorships in sporting events.” New regulations will focus on the online component in particular.

temporary reprieve will be just a “short period and not two or three years”

The minister also confirmed that soccer clubs will be granted a grace period to allow existing sports betting contracts to expire. He warned that this temporary reprieve will be just a “short period and not two or three years as some clubs would like.” The brief hiatus will also allow clubs to remove all gambling operator-owned signage and assets from their digital channels while winding down related adverts and campaigns.

Garzón added that, with his government currently “studying the legal issues”, he is confident that the ban will come into effect in October “because the law is the law.”

Garzón’s war zone

Since the turn of the year, staunch gambling opponent Garzón has gone on the offensive against sports betting advertising and sponsorship partnerships. The minister has become increasingly vocal in recent weeks as clubs in La Liga and lower leagues – and even the La Liga organization itself – continue to sign new partnerships with gambling operators.  

On September 10, La Liga signed a four-season deal with its new betting partner M88, which gives the Gibraltar-based iGaming giant exclusive marketing rights in Asia. Last week, Spain’s VERSUS brand signed a three-year pact with Atletico Madrid, UK online wagering company Betway partnered with Espanyol, and Asian sports betting firm Dafabet inked a deal with Cádiz.

This rush of signings prompted Garzón to tell a local radio station on September 4 that the freshly minted sponsorships amounted to “an absurd challenge” to the Spanish government.

Into the final stretch

The changes to Spain’s gambling advertising laws were proposed under the Royal Decree in April and submitted to the European Commission (EC) for approval on July 9. While the EC did not raise any initial objections to the proposal, a report by the Brussels-based European Gaming and Betting Association heavily criticized the restrictions.

That same month, Garzón voiced his intention to press Spain’s Council of State to approve the Royal Decree by September. This leaves the Council of Ministers to voice its consensus by October.

not about killing flies with cannon shots”

In his September 11 declaration, Garzón also defended his government’s preference for state-owned lotteries SELAE and ONCE under the new decree. He argued that it was “not about killing flies with cannon shots” and claimed that lotteries are a “reserved” form of wagering that do not carry the same harms as online gambling does.

Despite Spain’s proposed gambling restrictions and COVID-19, the national gambling regulator Dirección General del Ordenación del Juego reported a 12.5% year-on-year surge in gambling revenue for the first quarter of 2020.