A Spanish decree that will ban “intensive” gamblers from using credit cards is imminent, with the nation’s regulator revealing that applications for online licences will not reopen until the market has had time to react to the wave of new rules.
Spain’s widespread prohibition of advertising that came into effect during the course of last year has reshaped the market, and another imminent decree looks set to be just as impactful.
A new piece of responsible gambling legislation, authored by gambling regulator the DGOJ, is due for political approval in the coming weeks.
Among other changes, the decree will enshrine in law the concept of an “intensive player”, meaning a person that loses more than €600 for three consecutive weeks with a single operator.
Individuals that fall into this category will be banned from placing wagers with a credit card and will be sent a large number of messages encouraging them to stop playing if they are experiencing harm.
Gamblers at risk of harm will also need to be flagged by operators and will be subject to increased responsible gambling controls, but the criteria for what qualifies as a “risky player” has not yet been defined.
Speaking in London at an event organised by law firm DLA Piper, DGOJ director general Mikel Arana said that the regulator will eventually create a strict definition of “risky” gamblers, but only after months of examining data from the industry.
“The main idea is that not all players are the same,” he said.
“The responsible gambling measures should match the intensity of the player. If you have very intensive playing, you need more protection.”
Arana also rejected criticism that tighter controls on big spenders would cause significant damage to the sector.
“People say you are ruining the gambling market, it’s not true. There are very few players who go that far.”
He also said that predictions of disaster for media, sports clubs and gambling firms in the wake of the advertising decree had not been borne out.
“They told us … it will be terrible. The data, it doesn’t say it’s terrible.”
Football teams have found other sponsors, media firms have not collapsed and gambling operators continue to make money, he said.
Still, all three of those groups have launched challenges before Spain’s highest court in an effort to rip up the decree.
The impact of these cases, along with what Arana says will be a very long implementation period for the responsible gambling decree, will need time to “settle down” before any new operators can enter the market.
Spain only accepts applications for new licences during set tender periods, the last of which took place in December 2018.
Arana said the regulator definitely wants to open a new online gambling licensing window, but would not be drawn on a specific timeline and was clear it would be taking the time to assess the impact of new regulations before any fresh applications were accepted.
Arana added that he believes the reaction of the general public to the advertising restrictions has been positive.
“I think that most of the people in Spain are happy with this restriction on publicity and they live more tranquilly”, without seeing frequent gambling ads, he said.