Spain’s warm gambling climate lures in gamblers
Gambling is legal in Spain, and the gambling industry flourishes here as it is favorite leisure time for many local citizens. Spanish people tend to bet a high proportion of their income. It is estimated that the Spanish population of 46.5 million gamble approximately € 1.9 billion a year, which equals to around € 480 per person.
Spanish gambling scene
Spaniards love gambling. They gamble on almost anything, including lotteries bingo, slot machines, casinos, football, horseracing, dog racing and the big jai-alai games in the Basque Country and Madrid.
The most popular form of gambling is the state national lottery (Lotería Nacional) run in aid of charities and the Catholic Church. Lottery tickets are sold at lottery offices or can be purchased from street vendors.
In 2017, the Extraordinary Christmas Lottery, widely called El Gordo (the Big One) sold 165 million tickets worth €3.3 billionand €2.3 billion were distributed as cash prizes.
There are currently more than 60 casinos, 7 racetracks and 43 poker rooms located across the country. The largest casino in the country is Gran Casino de Barcelona, which offers 219 gaming machines and 53 table games. The second largest casino is Casino Gran Madrid Torrelodones, which is located in Madrid and is the oldest casino in the country. Casino Gran Madrid Torrelodones and offers 38 table games, 25 poker tables, 200 gaming and video poker machines.
Although casinos are the most preferred establishments to enjoy casino games, there are also many gambling rooms across Spain, which are smaller casino versions that allow maximum wagering amount of €2 with the maximum prize of €500
According to World Casino Index, a total of more than 250,000 slot machines have also been reported to be present in Spain.
Poker is extremely popular in Spain, and the country has hosts a number of international poker tournaments: The World Poker Tour, 888 Poker Live, the European Poker Tournament and more.
Spain’s regulatory landscape
Overall, the gambling laws on the territory of Spain are viewed as more lenient than in many other European countries. According to the current Spanish law, the responsibility of regulating the gambling market in the country is vested with the state and the regional authorities.
Gambling was legal in Spain for more than 30 years prior to 2011 but, until the Spanish Gambling Act came along, the country’s 17 autonomous communities maintained supervision of all types of gambling within their territorial jurisdictions.
Until 1977, the gambling activities in the country were limited primarily to basic state-controlled lotteries. In 1977, the Spanish Government officially permitted games of skill. Legalization of games of chance such as slot games came several years later – in 1981.
With the adoption of the so-called Gambling Act No.13/2011 on May 26th, 2011, the general regulatory rules for overseeing gambling at a national level were established. General Directorate for the Regulation of Gambling Activities became an official body empowered to monitor, control and regulate gambling activities on the state level.
The main purpose of the Spanish Gambling Act was to provide a regulatory mechanism to combat fraud and illegal gambling, prevent gambling addiction and securing players’ rights. Later on, this purpose expanded to also include the regulation of online gambling in Spain.
As online gambling clearly goes beyond regional boundaries, it required coordination on the national level. The Spanish government realized that in order to do that, it needed to have a united and consolidated legislation in place. However, the Act still authorizes the autonomous communities to reserve their rights to lay down gambling regulations and policies within their respective regions.
Summarizing the above, the online gambling operations are monitored and controlled by the federal authorities; however, the regional authorities do have certain jurisdiction powers over online gambling operations, although their extent is restricted. Their scope in this regard is generally limited to regulating the online games offered to residents within the autonomous region. Generally, the regional authorities are concerned with regulating land based gambling operations.
Spain has set strict rules about the players’ legal age. Spanish law prohibits minors under 18 years old from entering gaming venues such as casinos, slot machine centers, gaming parlors and bingo halls.
Gambling tax regime
Taxes on gambling differ according to a particular region’s regulation, type of gambling, and the level of the gross gaming income. For example, in the Madrid region, they are:
- 20% on casino gross gaming revenue (GGR).
- 15% on GGR for bingo, and 30% on GGR for electronic bingo.
- 10% on GGR for online games developed in the Madrid region.
- 13% on GGR for betting games and 10% on GGR for sports betting, horse racing and other betting games.
The tax rate applicable to casino games depends on the level of the GGR. For example:
- 22% is applied on GGR less than EUR2 million.
- 30% on GGR from EUR2 million to EUR3 million.
- 40% from EUR3 million to EUR5 million.
- 45% on above EUR5 million
Last year the Spanish parliament implemented a 5 percent tax cuton GGR of most types of online gaming with the exception of taxes on pari-mutuel horse racing and pari-mutuel betting, which went up 5 per cent.
As of July 2018, online fixed-odds sports and other forms of fixed odds of betting, horse racing betting, betting exchanges for sports and other forms of exchange and pool betting: are taxed at 20% on GGR.
Online casino games such as poker, black jack, bingo, slots, and others: 20% on GGR.
Spain’s online gambling market
The data from Spanish gambling regulator Dirección General de Ordenación del Juego (DGOJ) shows that online gross gaming revenue in 2018climbed by 25 per cent year-on-year to €699m.
According to industry experts, there is plenty of room for growth in the booming online gambling sector, and the fast-growing Spanish online gaming and betting market could soon be worth a billion euros a year.
In order to conduct online gambling in Spain, operators first are required to get a general license, than another specific license for the type of game they want to offer. These licenses come in two different forms. The general gambling license is valid for a total of ten years before renewal, and the specific gambling license applies only to a single game and is valid for a duration of between one and five years, depending on the game type.
Currently, licenses in Spain are available for offering fixed-odds sports betting, mutual sports betting, other fixed-odds betting, fixed-odds horse racing betting, mutual horse race betting, and casino games, – roulette, baccarat, black jack, complementary games, poker, bingo, slots as well as exchange betting. Most specific licenses are issued for 5 years, with the exceptions of black jack, roulette, baccarat and fixed odds horse betting licenses that are granted only for 3 years.
It is noteworthy, that online slots and exchange betting remained prohibited in the country until the end of July 2014, and that is when Spanish lawmakers made a decision to lift the ban.
According to the Spanish National Gaming Commission, in case any general license is revoked or renounced, then single licenses becomes obsolete too.
In total, over ninety-one online gambling licenses were issued by the General Directorate for the Regulation of Gambling since the adoption of the Spanish Gambling Act. Amongst the list of successful online gambling operators that have been awarded with licenses are Ladbrokes, Paddy Power, Codere, Prima, Electraworks, Gamesys, Giga Game, Interwetten, Rank and many others.
Advertising, promotion, and sponsorship concerning all gambling activities are included in the scope of the Spanish Gambling Act as well. In particular, the Act prohibits advertising, sponsorship or endorsement of gambling operations that are not properly licensed, as well as advertising or promotion of gambling operators who do not hold the appropriate licenses. The Act also stipulates that advertising, sponsorship and promotion campaigns done by media concerning publicizing gambling activities or gambling operators are subject to an authorization process.
In 2016, the Spanish National Gaming Commission issued warnings to twelve unlicensed operators on the Spanish market ordering them to restrict access for Spanish players to their sites or run a risk of facing fines up to €50 mln. Spanish authorities strictly enforce online gambling statutes by blocking access to unlicensed foreign sites through ISPs. However, despite stringent regulations pertinent to gambling operators in Spain, the law does not criminalize players for gambling on an unlicensed online foreign platform.
After the Spanish Gambling Act came into effect by the end of 2012, more than one million players started to wager on the Spanish online gambling market. Currently, the statistics show that more than 50% of the players who use the activities and services offered online are engaged in sports betting.
Many industry experts believe that 2018 online gaming tax cuts will provide a further boost for Spain’s online gambling sector, and Spanish economy overall, as the new measures will also lead to more tax being collected.
Thus, Santiago Asensi, managing partner of Spanish gaming law firm Asensi Abogados, told iGamingBusiness.com that the new tax regulations will be “good news for everyone”, including the government coffers, which would benefit from a hike in the tax take”.
“Operators will be able to make better offers to the players who will not go to illegal markets,” he pointed out.
Inbet’s ATOMIC to prolong Spanish players’ engagement
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Would you like to learn more about gambling in other countries, please see the following:
Spain as one of the most lucrative gambling markets in Europe