The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) has reiterated its warning to Spain’s Consumer Affairs Ministry that Royal Decree advertising restrictions are in conflict on EU competition policies.
Spain’s autonomous governments have been instructed to implement the ‘Royal Decree on Advertising’ mandate, imposing a ‘near-complete ban on gambling advertising’.
The Decree’s headline requirement will see all gambling-related advertising restricted to a ‘nigh ttime window’ of 1:00-5:00 am – implemented across traditional broadcast verticals.
However, the EGBA noted that Spain’s biggest gambling firms – the state-run ONCE and SELAE lottery operators – have been exempt from any restrictions, discriminating against EU State Aid Rules.
Pointing to data published by Spain’s Association of Advertisers (AEA), the EGBA highlighted that ONCE, Spain’s national lottery for the disabled, is registered as the 11th biggest advertising firm – ‘spending €49m or 34% of the gambling sector’s total advertising spend (€145.6m)’.
The EBGA maintained its concerns that the Spanish government has implemented its restrictions without any basis of evidence, obstructing its policy objective to protect national consumers.
A recent study by the University of Madrid found that the country has a problem gambling rate of 0.3%, one of the lowest in the world.
The EGBA had previously supported an EU-level challenge of Royal Decree amendments issued by Spanish online gambling trade body Jdigital.
Mikel Arana, Director General of Spanish gambling regulator DGOJ, had defended the Decree against industry criticism, stating that Spanish laws held ‘exclusive distinctions‘ for ONCE and SELAE’, and that companies should be separated from rules attached to for-profit gambling companies.
Maarten Haijer, Secretary-General of the EGBA, stated: “We urge the Spanish government to reconsider its advertising restrictions because there is a lack of data to support the measures and the granting of advertising privileges to state-run companies over private ones could potentially be in conflict with EU state aid rules.
“The restrictions clearly discriminate against private companies and favour the economic interests of the state-run lotteries, who are by far the country’s leading advertisers in the gambling sector.
“And while EGBA fully supports responsible advertising, the scope and type of restrictions proposed are not justified by the evidence available, including the country’s relatively low problem gambling rate and the significantly lower public awareness towards gambling advertising compared to other major advertising sectors.”