Constitutionality of Spain’s Gambling Advertising Ban Challenged in Supreme Court

  • Restrictions started in 2020 and were legalized with the “Garzón Law”
  • The case deals with the rights to freedom of speech and business operations
  • Gambling is the leading form of e-commerce in Spain despite the advertising restrictions
  • If found unconstitutional, the case will still need to go to the Constitutional Court
Cibeles Fountain in Madrid, Spain
The Spanish Supreme Court is reviewing the constitutionality of a ban on gambling advertising. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Garzón Laws

Spain’s effort to crack down on gambling advertisements hit a pothole as the Supreme Court is questioning its constitutionality. 

operators immediately pushed back against the decrees

The “Garzón Law,” established in September 2021, has regulated gambling advertising in media and sports since its inception. Before that, the Royal Decree on Commercial Communications of Gambling Activities blocked paths for gaming promoters. Operators immediately pushed back against the decrees; the long-standing fight could finally be turning in their direction. 

The Court’s decision will ultimately determine the trajectory of gambling in the country.

The legal case

The original guidelines stipulated that operators could only advertise their product from 1-5am. Additionally, agencies could not partner with sports teams or tempt players with special offers, among other rules.

Spain’s minister of consumer affairs, Alberto Garzón, was a big proponent, hence the later-introduced Garzón Law. 

directly ties freedom of speech to business operations

The appeal against Garzón and the prohibition raised by the Spanish Association of Digital Gaming (JDigital) is based on the principle of reservation of law. That part of the country’s constitution is one of the more important ones, as it directly ties freedom of speech to business operations, hence why the issue has been fast-tracked to the Supreme Court.

“The law does not provide criteria according to which the regulatory development of advertising must take place or the guidelines according to which the regulation may condition or limit the advertising that may be carried out by gambling operators, nor any indication or criterion on what can be considered proportionate or not,” the Supreme Court order states.

According to the interpretation, the Court will have the power to ban further limits on advertising if it chooses to. JDigital and other interested parties will also contest other areas of the law if their current attempt fails. 

Spain’s gambling ecosystem

Spain has not encountered many serious issues with its gambling market yet. Problem gambling rates are low, there are no major scandals, and it is the largest form of e-commerce despite the advertising blockade. 

However, gambling’s increasing prominence worldwide is starting to cause issues; as companies look for new partners and ways to grow their business, the current standards make any internal attempts nearly impossible. 

prohibiting gambling is not the same as limiting the option to promote it

Garzón has been a constant opponent in companies’ attempts to push their agendas. His stance is that prohibiting gambling is not the same as limiting the option to promote it. 

The minister intended the restrictions to suppress consumers’ desires to risk gambling during personal economic crises. On top of that, he feels blocking companies from partnering with teams will limit the chances of bankruptcy. 

If the Supreme Court finds the restrictions unconstitutional, it will still need to send the case to the Constitutional Court— a process that could take years. Operators stated that if this were to happen, they would demand a return to normal operations in the meantime.