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DGOJ boss says gambling in Spain “not a public health problem”

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The director general of Spanish gambling regulator the Dirección General de Ordenación del Juego (DGOJ) has said gambling is not a public health problem in the country, despite a government crackdown on the sector.
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During a conference call organised by the Madrid Workers Commissions (CCOO), director general of the DGOJ Mikel Arana said that, according to the regulator’s own prevalence studies, “the vast majority of people who gamble, whether online or offline, do so as a leisure activity and it is not a health problem for them”.

“That does not mean, however, that it is not necessary to try to prevent them from increasing their levels of play,” Arana continued.

Jdigital said that these conclusions mean that the Ministry of Consumer Affairs and government at large have acted with conscious arbitrariness and disproportionality, in introducing restrictions such as new advertising regulations introduced throughout 2020 and 2021.

The association also said the regulations are likely to lead to more damage and a greater lack of protection than that which existed before.

It pointed out that the online gambling market in Spain is one of the most heavily regulated worldwide, and that Spanish gambling legislation has been used as an example of good practice in many other countries.

The latest reports from Spain’s National Drugs Plan, it said, showed again that the prevalence of problem gambling in Spain is less than 0.5% among the population aged 15 to 64, that this figure has remained stable since 2015 and moreover has shown a downward trend.

Jdigital said the online sector has always been in favour of regulation, and has pledged a firm commitment to eradicate the prevalence of problem gambling behaviours and protect its users, especially those who are most vulnerable.

It therefore demanded a “balanced and proportionate” regulation of the activity, based on real data.

It argued that the current proposals and recently created regulations, in contrast, are only justified by populist arguments or media headlines, without taking into account the consequences they will have on a sector whose activity is already highly regulated.

Regulations including strict limits on the hours that gambling advertising is permitted on TV and radio, a blanket ban on all promotional acquisition offers and the outlawing of gambling sponsorships of sports teams, have been brought into effect throughout 2020.

In January, the Ministry for Consumer Affairs said its key priority for 2021 would be consumer protection, continuing to implement and tighten the advertising restrictions introduced last year, as well as other projects such as the consolidation of Spain’s region-specific self-exclusion databases into a single list.

A study published in October by the University Carlos III of Madrid (UC3M) claimed that while 84.9% of the population of Spain participates in some form of gambling activity each year, the country has a problem gambling rate of just 0.3%.

This, it said, equated to one of the lowest rates of problem gambling in any country worldwide.

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