The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) has expressed skepticism towards the potential new gambling regulations agreed by Spain’s coalition government.
EGBA said that while it welcomes “measures which genuinely strengthen consumer protection,” it believes that the measures put in place – particularly severe advertising restrictions – would merely push players to unlicensed operators instead.
“In the past, we have seen, in various jurisdictions, the introduction of well-meaning consumer protection measures which had an actual counterproductive effect because they pushed online players towards unregulated, off-shore websites which exposes them to dangerous practices and a lack of legal recourse when their consumer rights and protections are being trampled on,” EGBA said.
“The Spanish government should pay attention to this risk and ensure that new measures which might be considered are mindful of the need to ensure a high participation rate of players in the Spanish regulated market, rather than the offshore market. This is true particularly in respect to advertising, which is a vital instrument to direct players to the gaming and betting websites which are licensed and regulated Spain – and away from risky websites.”
In December, Spain’s coalition government of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) and Unidos Podemos revealed a complete programme for 2020, including “urgent regulation of gambling to prevent and curb gambling”.
The regulation consists of six specific actions, including working with regions to prevent gambling establishments from opening before 10pm and limiting their proximity to schools.
The coalition’s plans also include a regulation of the advertising of gambling and online gambling at the state level and “similar to that of tobacco products”. Since 2005, tobacco products in Spain may only be advertised at the point of sale and in non-EU-produced publications intended for non-EU audiences.
EGBA said that the lack of research linking gambling advertising with problem gambling and the potential for advertising to be used as a tool for both channelisation and responsible gambling messages mean an ad restriction is unnecessary and potentially harmful.
“As far as we are aware, there is no research or studies that conclude that the volume of advertising for gambling impacts the risk of problem gambling,” EGBA said. “However, at the same time, EGBA obviously recognizes the need to ensure that advertising is responsible and helps protect vulnerable consumers and minors.”
“Gambling advertising does play an important role in informing consumers of which websites are regulated and licensed in Spain, and where they can play in a safe and regulated environment that takes into account their need to be protected. In most EU countries, advertising is also required to provide information about the risks of gambling and where and how consumers can obtain help if they need it.”