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Industry responds as Spain accepts raft of new RG regulations

More than 30 new youth-oriented responsible gaming regulations have been adopted by Spain's Cabinet of Ministers.

The Royal Decree for the Development of Safer Gaming Environments, a proposal from the country's Council of Ministers to strengthen safer gambling protections, was approved by Spain's top executive body, the Council of Ministers.

The new regulations are the Ministry's newest regulatory drive, coming on the heels of the earlier 2020 Royal Decree on Commercial Communications, which dramatically tightened the country's gambling advertising laws.

“The purpose of this new regulation is to minimise risky or intensive gambling behaviours that can lead, in the most extreme cases, to problematic or pathological behaviours,” said the ministry in a statement, explaining the rationale for the new measures.

The decree's primary target is young people between the ages of 18 and 25, whom the ministry claims are more exposed to "inappropriate messaging and gaming behaviours," while the measures will also strengthen safeguards for other vulnerable groups.

The government will identify risk profiles based on consumer spending; a user who accumulates a net loss of €600 - or €200 if the individual is under the age of 25 - over three consecutive weeks would be classified as an intensive gambler.

The Royal Decree also contains extra safeguards for players who have requested safer gaming limits on their gambling accounts or who have registered with the national self-exclusion register.

Ban on credit cards

Operators will be forced to deliver a message warning at-risk individuals if potentially dangerous behaviour is discovered, as well as a monthly summary of their gaming activity, under the new guidelines. Furthermore, consumers in this group will be unable to use credit cards to finance their gambling expenditure.

Gambling operators would also be prohibited from providing promotional materials to these gamers. Companies will also be prohibited from including such individuals in VIP programmes.

Businesses will also be prohibited from sending promotions to young individuals aged 18 to 25 who have not previously interacted with the gaming industry. An individual who purchases football tickets, for example, will not be susceptible to gambling advertising.

“In other words, they can no longer be offered improved or more advantageous conditions to promote their level of play,” said the Ministry.

Inability to comply

Operators will also be expected to communicate with at-risk gamers. If there is no response within 72 hours, the account must be suspended.

Younger users will also be displayed a notice stating that gaming at a young age increases the likelihood of developing risky gambling behaviour later in life.

According to the Ministry, businesses that fail to comply with the new requirements may face consequences. This might result in a €1 million punishment and a six-month suspension of their gaming licence. The statement noted that for more major offences, sanctions could be up to €50m, with the potential to permanently lose its licence.

New rules normally enter into force six months after they are published in the Official State Gazette. Certain regulations with high technological complexity may have a 12-month delay in implementation.

Criticism from industry

The Royal Decree has come under fire from the Spanish online operator group JDigital.

The authority emphasised that the Spanish regulatory environment is already one of the strongest in Europe, despite the fact that problem gambling is on the decline.

“We consider that this Royal Decree responds to a tendency of the national regulator to regulate activities that are already hyper-regulated, where the measures and good practices of the operators have contributed to having truly secure environments and frameworks,” said the lobbying group.

JDigital also indicated that it is in favour of regulation of the sector as long as such measures are proportionate and help to safer gambling environments.

The body added that however, regulation “cannot be an obstacle to sending political, confusing and alarmist messages to society, about a perfectly safe sector, according to government data and in comparison with neighbouring countries, and already battered after the entry into force of the Royal Decree of Commercial Communications.”

“Now… that it has already been regulated to limit the activity of operators, from the industry we demand that the regulator be able to work on the opportunities that do exist to improve the gambling market and investment in Spain.

“For this reason, Jdigital will continue to reach out to the regulator to address the creation of safe environments for online gambling in Spain in the most efficient way possible, as it has done up to now.”



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