Having been promoted to President of Spanish online gambling trade body Jdigital this January, Mikel López de Torre seeks to develop a progressive, business first and socially responsible framework for Spain’s new and existing stakeholders.
Leading Jdigital, López de Torre details Spain’s new upcoming licensing window, which will see new operators enter the market. However, López de Torre warns potential new market entrants that without social responsibility cohesion, operators will face difficulties…
SBC: Hi Mikel, thanks for the interview. The Spanish market is entering a period of expansion and transition. As a digital trade body what role do you want Jdigital to play in its development?
Mikel López de Torre: Well the Spanish market has been expanding and transforming since it was regulated in 2012. Clearly, there has been asymmetries between products, where poker has struggled to grow in the national liquidity scenario, and sports betting boomed on the back of a great performance of in-play betting markets.
However, overall growth rates in Spain have been strong in every year on year comparison. And throughout these past 5 years, Jdigital has played an active role as the voice of the entire Spanish online gambling ecosystem, which is the role we should continue to expand. We are lucky enough to have a proactive and open-minded regulator, who understands that building a strong and sustainable industry, is the best way to ensure gambling remains a safe and responsible entertainment option.
SBC: From a European perspective, Jdigital is one of the younger industry trade bodies. Is this an advantage for your operations, and how will you work with betting stakeholders to introduce them to the Spanish market?
MLT: Jdigital is as young or old as the market in which it was born and operates. It has grown in parallel with the Spanish Online Gambling Market. And in my view, that is a great advantage. We have been able to work side by side with operators, affiliates, software providers, labs, law firms, payment methods, and the regulator itself, to shape our industry from day one.
The two main advantages we offer to our associates are the market specific knowledge and training we offer through our parent association ADigital (With a range of in-depth sessions around Spain’s AML or data protection regulations, and access to key stakeholders in Spain’s top companies). And the industry-specific knowledge we ourselves provide through JDigital (with legal counsel by specialised lawyers, regular updates on market activity, access to our integrity programme, and improved rates on services).
SBC: Leading Jdigital what concerns, do you have with regards to Spain’s upcoming licensing window and its opening for potential raft of new market entrants?
MLT: From the Association’s perspective, this new window is very positive. It shows that some of the measures we’ve been advocating for, such as the shared liquidity on poker (which we’d like to see extended to other products and to international liquidity), or the regulation of slots machines, were positive steps that have made our market more appealing to both Spanish consumers and foreign operators. Simultaneously, it highlights the positive impact of listening to our requests. And proves that the reports and case studies we produce to back up these requests are accurate and unbiased.
SBC: Entering 2018, Jdigital has placed a high emphasis on expanding stakeholder social responsibility initiatives. Why is responsibility and accountability at the forefront of your market development?
MLT: Responsibility has always been, and will always be a crucial part of what we do. As an entertainment industry, we understand that our users have to enjoy and have fun while gambling for the industry to succeed. If it stops being fun to become a problem, then it is no good for anyone in the industry. The same would happen in other industries as video games, sports, shopping, TV shows and so on.
The emphasis is focused on being more vocal about the work we do on responsible gambling. Historically, our industry has never tackled the subject openly in the media. But we’ve come to the realisation that if we leave the industry’s image in the hands of other actors, they invariably project a negative image which simply doesn’t correspond with reality.
SBC: From a personal perspective, you have worked within multiple European jurisdictions. As a Spanish stakeholder, what can your market learn from its European counterparts, and furthermore what should it avoid to replicate?
MLT: First and foremost, we should be more open to innovation. I can understand why the Spanish regulator decided to be prudent and conservative in 2012, limiting the range of regulated games. But nowadays it makes no sense to create specific regulations and licenses for each new product. In a digital industry, innovation is key to staying competitive.
Furthermore, taxation has to be reviewed. Its enough with a quick revision of regulated jurisdictions to understand what works and what doesn’t. Which countries have a strong industry driving wealth, employment, international access and healthy growth, versus the jurisdictions that are stagnant, with enterprises essentially trying to stay afloat…
SBC: Finally, in 2018, amid changing conditions for all European gambling stakeholders, How will you gauge success for Jdigital and its Spanish market stakeholders…What do you deem as genuine progress for all?
MLT: The Spanish Online Market is still very young, we just opened up to poker shared liquidity, and we have a World Cup coming up in summer. So we should see strong revenue growth once again. But more importantly, we need to ensure this growth is perceived by the general public, the media, and the politicians as what it is. A positive development in a relevant entertainment industry that´s full of potential and operates responsibly. It’s in our hands.
Mikel Lopez de Torre – President – Jdigital Spain
Spanish Market opportunities will be discussed and debated at the upcoming ‘Betting on Football Conference’ (#BOFCON2018 – 20-23 March 2018 – Stamford Bridge – London)