Recent developments show that Spain is on the brink of giving in to the demands of anti-gambling groups in the country. The country’s ombudsman has started calling for a ban on all gambling advertisement, with the only exception being advertising for state-run lottery operations.
Ombudsman Francisco Fernandez Marugan recently made this proposal to the Spanish government, focusing predominantly on the advertising of gambling products online. Marugan believes such a ban is justified because there is currently no protections in place against potential harm from gambling under existing Spanish law. He says gambling is clearly “a public health issue that requires a regulatory framework with imperative legal norms.”
Asked about the possibility of putting self-regulatory processes in place in lieu of a total advertising ban, Marugan said he believes the self-regulation approach will be ineffective. Industry stakeholders have pointed out, however, that this statement runs counter to Marugan’s willingness to allow lottery operators to self-regulate their advertising. They further point out that lottery operators have been known to embark on controversial campaigns, an example of which was when SELAE awarded the jackpot to a 15-year-old, even though the legal age to participate in the lottery is 18.
Gambling industry stakeholders in the country are also saying there is no need for an ad ban, especially since survey results have shown that gambling is considered by a majority of Spanish consumers as nothing more than a casual form of entertainment. Specifically, only 1% of gamblers in Spain are categorized as regular gamblers.
They are also calling Marugan out for failing to educate himself properly on the country’s gambling situation and the impact advertising has on the entire gambling industry. They further said that the gambling advertising ban proposed by the ombudsman is hypocritical because it exempts the SELAE and ONCE from the ban. While they acknowledge that SELAE and ONCE are put in place for a worthy cause, they pointed out that they still offer gambling products and should therefore be subject to the same laws as other gambling product and service providers.
According to members of the gambling industry, if gambling is indeed the serious public health issues that Marugan claims it to be, then it has to be deemed a public health issue for all type of gambling. As it is, they say the ombudsman is only considering it a health issue for a select few that don’t fit his personal agenda.
It does look like Marugan will get his way, as Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE), the Spanish Socialist Workers Party, has already announced in a recent media release that they support the ombudsman’s views. Although the party does not hold majority position in the National Government, they have announced plans of drafting a “Royal Decree” to put new gambling advertisement restrictions in place. If their plans push through, these restrictions will be implemented in all provinces of Spain.
Furthermore, the Ministry of Finance has also expressed support for the ombudsman’s opinions, thereby giving him and the PSOE additional legislative support. Unless new developments occur to halt the Royal Decree, the Spanish gambling industry will soon see all forms of gambling advertisement prohibited across the country.