Spain's Competition Watchdog Flags Player Suspension Concerns

January 12, 2022
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​​​​​​​Spain’s independent competition regulator has recommended altering the section of a draft royal decree that would require operators to suspend players based on their financial activity.

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Spain’s independent competition regulator has recommended altering the section of a draft royal decree that would require operators to suspend players based on their financial activity.

The Comisión Nacional de los Mercados y la Competencia (CNMC) report says the decree on developing safer gambling environments for consumers is broadly within “the principles of good regulation” and is based on the “overriding public interest” of preventing gambling addiction.

However, the CNMC has said the decree would be improved by altering an obligation on operators to immediately suspend a person's gambling activity for at least three months when exhibiting “risky gambling behaviours”, which are wide-ranging and include using loans, credit or donations of any kind to gamble.

“The difficulty of this article lies in the legal uncertainty it places on the operator who must make this decision,” according to the CNMC, as the decision would have to be based on the operator’s knowledge of their consumer formed through existing anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorist financing obligations.

The competition watchdog has said it is “debatable” these resources could provide a level of information that leaves “no room for doubt” when it comes to operators knowing the nature of a consumer's financing.

To avoid forcing operators to make a decision based on limited information, the CNMC proposes operators suspicious of a player's activity launch a consultation procedure with the gambling regulator (DGOJ) to ensure “the greatest technical legal support” for the decision.

The decree proposes introducing “due-diligence measures” on players who exhibit risky behaviour and its mandate to establish internal policies allowing operators to determine whether those gamblers have income “compatible with the level of spending”.

This “does not oblige operators to utilise specific tools in order to proceed with these checks, but it states the obligation of having internal procedures to comply with this obligation”, a DGOJ spokesperson told VIXIO last August.

Among other new rules, the draft decree would introduce limits for all online gamblers already applicable to slots, such as establishing specific time and spend limits prior to each play session.

The decree also sets up new concepts such as “intensive players”, meaning those who exceed daily or weekly deposit limits in at least three consecutive periods of time.

Players under the age of 25 are not allowed to receive bonuses or to be targeted by VIP marketing programmes, according to the draft.

On October 15, 2021, the DGOJ notified a draft of the decree to the European Commission. The standstill period ends on January 17, 2022.

If adopted, the decree will enter into force on July 1, 2022, with the exception of some of its parts that will enter into force on July 1, 2023.

Separately, the budget for the Ministry of Consumer Affairs has been increased to €57.18m for 2022, 20 percent of which covers the cost of regulating online gambling, a 66.08 percent increase compared with its 2021 budget.

Including cash from a European recovery fund, the increase in investments for the surveillance and control of gambling amounts to a 110.11 percent increase in 2022, according to the ministry.

Additionally, €1.5m is being spent on advertising campaigns to deter people from gambling, as well as financing the linking up of the autonomous communities and central government’s online and land-based self-exclusion registries.

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