Alberto Garzón, Spain’s minister of consumer affairs, wants local municipalities to have the power and tools to introduce restrictions on gambling venues in their areas.
Garzón recently met with the local lawmakers in the town of Alcalá de Guadaíra in Seville to discuss initiatives the city has been planning to tackle gambling addiction and protect vulnerable people.
Among these measures, the city wants to ban gambling venues within 500 metres of educational, sports and cultural buildings.
During the meeting, Garzón said he wants “many more” city councils to follow its lead and that city councils should be supported in their efforts to tackle gambling harms.
Mayor Ana Isabel Jiménez agreed granting licences for activities in a specific location should be the responsibility of a local municipality.
However, she said there has been a lot of push back from the General Directorate of Gaming of the Junta de Andalucía to the city’s proposal.
“We do not understand their attitude in this matter,” Jiménez said, “it should be all the administrations that collaborate to try to advance against a problem that grows more and more”.
Garzón sees gambling as a public health problem and his ministry backed up his desire to place more restrictions on gambling venues by pointing to a recent study that apparently showed the proximity of bookmakers to schools correlated with worse educational performance, particularly in the most deprived areas.
“Let's design cities where leisure for young people is far from this perverse model of bookmakers,” Garzón said.
Figures in the tenth edition of Spain’s annual gambling industry report released in December 2021 revealed the gambling industry lost around 45,000 jobs in 2020, largely as a result of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the sector.
An additional 130,000 people are still employed indirectly by the sector, according to the report, prompting trade group Cejuego to warn the job losses were also made worse by the gambling sector dealing with some of the strictest COVID-19 restrictions in comparison with other industries.
Despite this squeeze on gambling venues, board games have already been highlighted as a potential replacement activity for bookmakers.
Speaking at InterOcio 2022 on March 11, a trade fair for board game, role-playing and strategy game companies, Garzón said the games offered a healthy contribution to society “compared to other activities that entail risks and cause harm”.
The Ministry of Consumption wants Spain to become a leading country in the industry in a bid to offer people of all ages a replacement for a potential trip to a gambling venue.