New Gambling Advertising Laws Approved by Spain’s Council of State

  • The Council approved the Royal Decree by a unanimous vote
  • New laws include a blanket ban on sports team sponsorships by gambling companies
  • Large fines will be issued against any operator that violates the new laws
  • Soccer clubs must end existing relationships with gambling companies by September 2021
Spanish flags waving
Spain’s Council of State has approved a Royal Decree enacting new gambling advertising restrictions, including a ban on gambling companies sponsoring sports teams. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Heavier restrictions on advertising

The Council of State in Spain has approved new gambling advertising laws, the most restrictive yet for the country. The Royal Decree on Commercial Communications of Gambling Activities received a unanimous vote by the council members. The European Commission had previously approved the new rules.

Details of the Royal Decree were announced via Twitter on Tuesday:

Arguably the most significant rule change is a blanket ban on gambling company sponsorship of sports teams.

Tough gambling advertising laws

The Royal Decree will take effect one day after its publication in the Spanish Official Gazette. Officials told gambling operators that if they break the new rules, fines will be issued, starting at €100,000 ($117,091) and ranging as high as €1m ($1.1m).

Until now we have lived in the law of the jungle, where anything can be done.”

Alberto Garzon, the Spanish Minister of Consumer Affairs, stated that there had been no regulation of gambling advertising until this Royal Decree, saying: “Until now we have lived in the law of the jungle, where anything can be done.”

Tackling football advertising

In October, Garzon contacted the top officials of Spanish football clubs with a warning, as the new gambling advertising restrictions were expected to come into play. He said that the clubs must cease any existing relationships with gambling operators by September 2021.

The football clubs are not in support of the blanket sponsorship ban. The ban affects several teams, as many have just signed new gambling sponsorship deals over the past few months.

As of October, seven of 20 teams in La Liga, Spain’s top soccer division, have sponsors in the gambling industry. Included in the mix are Valencia and Seville.

The COVID-19 pandemic hit the clubs because the resulting attendance ban has sunk matchday revenues. Clubs and leagues say gambling sponsorships are needed to provide them with some of the revenue they have lost.

On top of the sponsorship ban, the Royal Decree covers television, radio, and online advertisements as well as welcome bonuses. The new rules restrict ads to a 1am to 5am window, a time frame originally imposed when the COVID-19 pandemic first began. It also bans welcome bonuses for new players.

Opposed to the Royal Decree

The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) has come forward in opposition to the Royal Decree. The group feels the new rules discriminate against international operators and favor the state-owned lottery operators. The lottery operators do not have to follow the new regulations.

The EGBA is calling on the government to reconsider advertising restrictions as there is a lack of data to support the changes. Giving preference to state-run operators over private companies, the Association says, could conflict with the European Union’s state aid rules.

Citing the Spanish Association of Advertisers, the EGBA reported that data shows state-run lotteries hold over one-third of the gambling advertising spend in Spain. They also generate 65% of the total gross gambling revenues.

The EGBA stated that it is in full support of advertising responsibly. However, the group says the restrictions proposed are not cohesive with what the evidence shows, including the low problem gambling rate in the country.