Gambling Guide to Spain

GambleScope Review Team

Most countries in Europe are gradually coming to terms with the new phenomenon that is online gambling. While gambling has been a fact of life for centuries, the online aspect has left the laws of many countries outdated. Some countries are further along the road than others when it comes to regulating online gambling in particular, and Spain is certainly more advanced than most in that regard. Spain is a huge market for all forms of gambling, and until 2011 this was licenced and regulated by the 17 autonomous region that makes up the country. Naturally, this meant that laws varied wildly from one part of the country to the next, and so an all-encompassing law was required.

Gambling: A Spanish Tradition

Gambling in Spain had been tightly controlled by the state for much of the past century. For the majority of the 1900s, gambling was illegal with the exception of state-run lotteries. It was only in 1977 that the government made skill-based gambling legal, with games of chance like slots being legalised in 1981. As online gambling started to become a factor from the late 1990s, thoughts turned to how this could also be regulated. From 2002 the Spanish government was in discussions regarding how online gambling could be brought into line, and in 2006 the first laws appeared to tackle the issue. The 2006 laws related to sports betting – both online and offline – and would be a precursor for the more wide-ranging law that would follow.

Legalise It!

In 2011 the Spanish Gambling Act was finally passed. This was the act which would create laws specifically related to the regulation of online gambling. The 2011 Act covers all forms of online and offline betting, including lotteries, casino, sports and poker betting. Now, gambling companies that want to operate in Spain must obtain a gambling licence. It is possible to get licenses for sports betting, fixed-odds betting, horse-race betting, and exchange betting, as well as casino game licenses for roulette, baccarat, blackjack, poker, bingo, and slot games among others. Most of these licences are for 5-year periods, although some – such as those for baccarat and blackjack – only last for 3 years.

The Hard-line Approach

The online gambling industry in Spain is now as tightly regulated as you will find anywhere in the world. All companies wishing to take on Spanish customers must have a licence, and this applies to all forms of gambling mentioned above. The Spanish government has been very proactive when it comes to going after international operators which do not have a licence. ISPs are blocked to prevent international casinos or gaming companies from operating in Spain, and the government has proved to be very diligent when it comes to shutting down such operators. In fact, more than 50 international companies have voluntarily stopped operating in Spain following ‘cease and desist’ notices from the government. Those websites which do not voluntarily close down have found themselves being pursued through the courts. With this kind of enforcement, it is no wonder that most online gambling companies either pursue a Spanish licence or withdraw from operating in the country altogether.

Why Regulate Online Gambling?

There are many reasons why regulating online gambling is an important step to take. Firstly, it is a means to provide protection for the citizens of a country who take part in online gambling. In countries where online gambling is unregulated, these protections do not exist. This means that should a player experience a problem or dispute with a gambling company, there is less chance of their obtaining a successful resolution of the issue. They will have to appeal to an international regulator such as that in Curacao, which may not be able to resolve their dispute. At least if the regulator is from the complainant’s own country there is a much greater chance of being able to resolve any issues quickly and successfully, due to the stronger likelihood of a gaming licence being suspended.

The Bottom Line

Another massive incentive for countries to regulate online gambling comes down to money. When international operators offer their services, the local economy is losing out. This is because the company may be based in a different country – such as Malta, for example - and paying tax in that country. The customer’s country loses out as any money spent on gambling is going to the company and there is no tax being imposed. Spain has got this situation well under control, and they impose a 25% tax on revenue generated by all online gambling companies. It is quite a high level of tax in comparison to other countries, but the size of the Spanish market makes obtaining a licence and paying tax still seem like an attractive option to most gaming companies.

Gambling on the Med: Offline and Online

If you are living in Spain and want to gamble, then you will have absolutely no problem doing so. All forms of gambling are available here, and there are plenty of international and local companies offering a great variety of betting opportunities. At the moment it is estimated that there are more than 70 online casinos currently holding Spanish licences. Even if you were to play on an unlicensed gambling site you would not be prosecuted, as the government is only interested in going after the companies and not the players. In the past, online slot gaming was banned but since 2014 this area has also been legalised. If you prefer sports betting on the latest La Liga matches, or trying your luck in casino games, there will be something for you here. Spain is the home of the famous ‘El Gordo’ Christmas lottery, of course, and the country goes crazy for this state-run draw every December. There are also plenty of land-based casinos and gambling arcades to be found all over the country.

You will not find many countries where the issue of online gambling has been so comprehensively regulated. The Spanish government have recognised that the popularity of online gambling can be effectively harnessed and used to generate much-needed funding. They have taken a clear-sighted approach which has been of benefit to the country and to bettors in sunny Spain.