Spain’s official regulatory body, the “Dirección General de Ordenación del Juego” (DGOJ), has established the “Consejo Asesor del Juego Responsible” (CAJR), which would support the regulator in the development, execution and overall management of policies related to responsible online gambling across Spain.
Last November, 25 new members joined the board including representatives from top gambling suppliers companies. The board has representatives from various fields including psychology, social health and welfare as well as consumer rights. Juan Espinosa García (pictured), the current president of the DGOJ regulatory body, is chair of the board.
Online gambling revenue increased by 30 per cent in Spain, year-on-year for Q3 when compared to 2017, totalling €181.8 million at the end of September 2018.
The most revenue comes from the sports betting and online casino verticals which many expect to reach a global value of over $74 billion (USD) by the end of 2023.
As per DGOJ, July-September revenues for the casino vertical increased 39.2 per cent to €60.8 million. Player spending within this vertical was also at an all-time high of €2.1 billion with an increase of 35.6 per cent from 2017. The new online poker shared liquidity pool with France and Portugal that Spain established in January of this year also benefited the industry, generating a 35.1 per cent revenue increase to €19.8 million.
Agcom commissioner Massimiliano Capitanio analyzes the implementation of the advertising ban contained in the Dignity decree, highlighting the Authority's interventions, and suggesting greater proportionality of sanctions, in relation to the person who committed a violation.
It is provided for in an Italian state law and has deeply changed the national panorama of gaming with cash winnings. This doesn't mean that the advertising ban, introduced in 2018 and becoming fully operational the following year, is a goal now achieved and that any doubts or difficulties have been solved.
With Massimiliano Capitanio, one of the commissioners of the Communications Regulatory Authority (Agcom), we take stock of Agcom's activity, which is also strongly focused on the control of the provisions regarding the ban on gaming advertising contained in the Dignity decree, in light of the guidelines for their implementation developed by the Authority itself.
How can and should we operate to ensure full respect of the Dignity decree?
“In light of the broad scope of the ban, the Authority, since 2019, has adopted Guidelines following a public consultation, where many stakeholders participated, including concessionaires and televisions, just to outline in more detail the scope of the Authority's intervention. Guidelines provide a complete framework of rules in which, among other things, the harmful, as well as lawful, conducts are specified. For example, it has been specified that the services of odds comparison or commercial offers of the various concessionaires are not forms of advertising, if they are carried out in compliance with the principles of continence, non-deceptiveness and frankness. Therefore, before carrying out any type of communication, the subjects of the ban should read the Guidelines, which among other things are very simple and understandable just to facilitate users, to ensure that they do not fall into the ban provided for by the law."
In your opinion, to what extent have the objectives forecast by it been achieved?
“Surely, Agcom's activity has made it possible to fight against the most direct and aggressive forms of advertising which, ultimately, are those that can most expose citizens to the risk of gambling addiction. The fact remains that, if the Authority is still carrying out many investigations, it means that the ban is not respected upstream and that, consequently, gambling advertising is very present in the media system, especially on the internet. It is therefore necessary to understand whether a single supervisory and sanctioning activity is enough or, on the contrary, a regulation that first of all assures knowledge and awareness of legal gaming is more appropriate. Secondly, it should distinguish typically gambling activities, therefore more subject to compulsiveness, and those in which, for example, a component of skill is relevant, with consequent differentiated rules on commercial communications.”
Do you believe that it will be possible to have a political reflection on the current rules on the advertising ban, also in light of what the tax delegation provides for gaming reform, and what could Agcom's contribution be in this case?
“Agcom brought to the attention of the Government which, at the time, issued the Dignity decree, the problems emerged since the public consultation for the issuing of the Guidelines. Agcom will certainly be able to provide a further contribution considering the experience gained in the field of supervision. An aspect that I would like to underline, for example, is the lack of proportionality of the sanctioning system, which does not distinguish the scope of the conduct nor the subjective position of those who carry it out. A small local newspaper can potentially be sanctioned to the same extent as a large international social media website."
Breaking down the yearly performance, online slots were by far the main source of gambling revenue in 2023. Total revenue from internet slot games amounted to €100.5m, up 28.5%.
Category A online slots revenue amounted to €97.1m and Category B games €3.4m. Elsewhere, online sports betting revenue was 1.2% higher at €35.3m in 2023. Internet table games revenue also increased by 46.5% to €12.6m for the year.
Sports betting decline hits land-based sector in Lithuania
Turning to land-based gambling, slots were again the main revenue source for operators in 2023. However, total slots revenue was 0.9% lower at €46.3m.
Of this total, €31.3m came from Category B games, down from €31.3m in 2022. The other €15.0m was generated by Category A slot machines, up 4.9% year-on-year. Land-based table games revenue was up 5.2% to €18.3m but retail sports betting revenue slipped 8.1% to €9.1m for the year. Lottery gross gaming revenue in 2023 was 17.6% higher at €66.3m. This was despite ticket sales falling 7.4% to 100.5 million over the 12-month period.
Casino revenue surpasses sports betting revenue in €urope.
The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) published its Annual Activity Report for 2023, which highlights the latest online gambling achievements and data of its members.
The document reveals an 8% decline in combined gross online gaming revenue to €10.7 billion in 2022 and, for the first time, casino revenue surpassed sports betting, accounting for 48% of revenue on-line.
Maarten Haijer, Secretary General of EGBA, maintained that the decline in revenue could be attributed to a combination of factors, such as the impact of the cost of living on customers' gaming habits and a "streak of favorable sports results" for customers.
The last one to leave turns off the light
Gambling authorities in the Czech Republic confirmed the entry into force of the decree banning slot machines in the city of Prague from 2024. International media quoted Martin Šabo, Director of the Gambling Regulation Department of the Czech Republic, who indicated that the Prague authorities began to apply the ban in 2021, but 2024 was determined because the longest license lasted until this year.
It should be noted that slot machines are still legal and accessible in authorized locations outside of Prague. Additionally, online gaming is still available in the city.
In his first appearance at the Social Rights and Consumption Commission of the Congress of Deputies, the Minister of Social Rights, Consumption and Agenda 2030, Pablo Bustinduy, declared as "urgent" the need to address and mitigate the possible harmful effects of gambling, focusing especially on user protection.
This first appearance of what will be the action of his Ministry was expected because of what it could mean as the beginning of the new conditions that would stop the problem of the ONCE Rascas; However, Bustinduy has neglected to address this essential issue of true concern.
During his intervention, Bustinduy highlighted the importance of regulating access to gambling, especially at an early age, recognizing the associated risks; but he has focused on video games, ignoring the problem of the ONCE Rascas.
Thus, the minister announced the proposal for a law that covers random reward mechanisms in video games, loot boxes and similar devices. He highlighted that these systems, present in video games, can contain elements equivalent to games of chance and often go unnoticed.
As part of the planned initiatives, Bustinduy has announced the intention to develop the Gambling Regulation Law, adapting it to the current digital environment and introducing a system of joint deposit limits per player. He has referred to the German model, which already implements a joint limit for deposits made on different gaming platforms.
Adopt the German Model
This means that, in practice, a player has a total monthly limit that covers all operators as we already explained in our special, which, far from being a solution, presents obvious challenges. For example, a global deposit can result in significant restrictions for players, limiting their freedom of choice on specific platforms and fueling illegal gambling.
For several years, casino operators in France have been concerned about the preferential treatment reserved for Française des Jeux (FDJ) by the National Gaming Authority. In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, signed by the Fédération Casinos de France, the Association of French Independent Casinos, as well as renowned companies such as the Partouche, Barrière and Tranchant groups, the players denounce “major distortions of competition ".
Operators highlight various points of friction, such as "access without ID, the ease of offering new games, the absence of control at points of sale unlike casinos" and the use of same FDJ customer account for monopoly games and competitive games.
They also criticize the “aggressive expansion policy of the FDJ” through successive acquisitions of companies present in competitive markets, which, according to them, “only increases the risk of cross-subsidies by the FDJ”. The letter also raises concerns regarding a possible plan to open online casinos under a new FDJ monopoly, a prospect described as “a new violation of the principles of the supervision of online gaming and the balance of the sectors”.
The operators claim to be best placed to manage such activity, guaranteeing “gambling is prohibited for minors” and effectively protecting players against the risk of addiction. They underline the economic importance of casinos in France, generating more revenue each year for the State and communities than the Gafa tax.
The players therefore ask to meet the Prime Minister to discuss their concerns and highlight the need to fight against illegal offers, considered essential to mitigate the damage suffered by the casino industry.
The Casinos de France union and the Association of French Independent Casinos propose several avenues of support for the casino sector, in particular the updating of tax scales according to inflation and the harmonization of constraints between the different sectors.
In response, the FDJ declares that it gives “priority to the prevention of excessive gambling and underage gambling”. She recalls that its monopoly activities were confirmed by the national representation in 2019 and the Pacte law, rejecting the idea of a “new monopoly” in terms of online casinos as being “devoid of any basis”.