The European Gaming and Betting Association has warned that proposed advertising restrictions in Spain could lead to huge uptick in unregulated activity, as well as having a detrimental effect on the country’s football clubs.

The Ministry of Consumer Affairs proposals would see advertising for online gambling only permitted between 1am-5am, with no exceptions for sports events, a total ban on gambling sponsorship of sports jerseys, kits and stadiums, and a ban on welcome bonuses. 

The country’s state-involved lotteries, which account for 65 per cent of the gambling market revenue, will be excepted from the main elements.

The proposals are expected to be finalised by the government in Autumn this year, with a three month implementation period foreseen for gambling companies to adapt to the rule changes.

Maarten Haijer, secretary general of the EGBA, explained: “Advertising has a crucial role to play in informing consumers which websites are regulated, and which are not. The near absolute advertising ban proposed in Spain will deprive Spanish players of any information where they can play in a safe and secure environment. 

Lauding the role of advertising in playing “an essential role in steering consumers to the gambling websites which are allowed,” a warning is issued that players could increasingly access websites which are neither licensed, regulated, taxed or apply any of the consumer protection measures which are required.

The EGBA asserts that unregulated gambling in Spain is already a problem, with 414 unregulated sites blocked by the country’s gambling authority in April-May alone this year, more than double the entire number of unregulated websites blocked by the authority in 2019.

The proposals will also negatively impact 41 of 42 La Liga football clubs, which are currently reeling from the financial fallout of COVID-19, costing them up to €80m in lost advertising revenues.  

“This is highly counterproductive and we urge the Spanish authorities to reconsider the proposals, and focus instead on strict regulation of the contents of advertising,” Haijer stated. 

“We fully agree that advertising should be responsible, both in terms of content and design, and that is why we recently published a code of conduct on responsible advertising. 

“The code offers practical ways in which gambling advertising can be conducted in a socially responsible way and as a conduit for informing citizens about important consumer protection measures, such as age restrictions and safer gambling tools. 

“Finally, exempting state-involved lotteries, which account for two thirds of Spain’s gambling market, from the restrictions is unjustified, protectionist and discriminatory.”