The online gambling market in Spain has experienced significant growth over the past few years. However, recently there have been some campaigners calling for the local authorities to enhance regulation in an effort to prevent further increase of gambling addiction rates among Spanish residents.
The rise of digital technologies over the last few years have hardly left any industries unaffected and the gambling sector is no exception. Currently, people are able to quickly register in a gambling website, and after entering a valid bank account, they can easily start playing. The rapid development of technologies has affected gambling, too, with the popularity of online gambling services having grown significantly in recent years in countries that legally permit this form of gambling.
In fact, gambling has grown to become a commonly-acceptable pastime and according to some estimates, about one-quarter of the global population currently gambles.
Of course, there are some markets where online gambling has become more popular than in others. As far as Spain is concerned, the online gambling sector has risen by 270% since 2014 even at times when the overall economic growth of the country has slowed. This rapid growth of the online gambling services has certainly brought many benefits to the gambling companies operating on the territory of the country, but at the same time has raised some controversial issues and has made it more difficult for local regulatory authorities to control the industry.
Rise of Digital Technologies Is Among the Main Reasons for Online Gambling’s Growth in Popularity
According to some analysts, the upward trends registered in the popularity of online gambling services in Spain are part of a wider trend associated with the rise of digital technologies. The proliferation of mobile gaming and smartphones among local residents means that Spanish people have been feeling more and more comfortable with the idea of placing bets remotely by using the services of online gambling companies.
On the other hand, sports betting, which has always represented a considerable proportion of the overall gambling sector, has also started to quickly adapt to consumers’ willingness to use digital devices. According to figures unveiled in the 2019 Sports Video Trends Report of Grabyo, about two-thirds of the survey’s respondents (65%) preferred watching sports content on their smartphones. From this point, the chance for them to reach a gambling website rises a lot.
On the other hand, along with the rising popularity of mobile gambling across the country, the Spanish Government seems to have realized that the taxes applicable to online gambling companies were too high. So, the authorities’ decision to lower taxes is considered one of the main factors that have had an extremely beneficial impact on the online gambling sector’s growth. The Government has obviously wanted to take advantage of the fact that, usually, when an industry is subject to extremely high taxes it make a lower contribution to state revenues, especially in comparison to an economic environment that is subject to moderate taxes.
Back in 2018, taxes on gross gaming revenue were reduced by Spanish regulators from 25% to 20% to give the industry some air to breathe. Local legislators had been willing to implement this change for quite some time but slower economic growth earlier in the decade and the suffering public sector has made the move politically unfeasible.
The aforementioned change was gladly accepted by the gambling companies that operate in the country and have so far managed to build their presence on the existing demand for their brands and services.
Popularity on Online Gambling Found Concerning, Despite Economic Benefits
As a matter of fact, people have always had a strong consumer appetite for digital gambling all over the world, and technological development has made this activity a common entertainment worldwide, including in Spain. Also, growth was driven by popular online gambling brands offering high-quality player experience along with a variety of online casino and slot games, as well as local customer support and a range of payment options.
The domestic online gambling operators in Spain have also generated growth. Several gambling companies have managed to attract players by offering a variety of gaming options, which have been attractive to players.
The quick growth marked in the online gambling market in Spain has also led to increased calls for regulation of the sector has fuelled calls from various campaigners who have insisted that the sector should be better regulated. Earlier in 2020, two of the political parties that are involved in the local ruling coalition – Podemos and the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party – agreed that the authorities needed to unveil urgent measures in order to better control and regulate both retail and online gambling companies in the country. The most-discussed reforms that are likely to be adopted are focused primarily on tackling the negative effects that problem gambling could have on the society and implementation of stricter rules when it comes to gambling advertising.
The rising popularity of online gambling services among local residents has become the main area of concern in Spain, especially when it comes to player protection measures. As Peter Murray, Director of the consultancy firm Alexem Services explained, the percentage of people experiencing gambling-related harm had remained pretty much unchanged, but the actual number of people affected by gambling addiction rises at a time when digital gambling operations are getting more popular among Spaniards. This is exactly why responsible gambling promotion and harm minimization should be placed as issues of paramount priority when it comes to the sector’s regulation.
The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) has so far praised the local authorities’ attempts to make customer protection in the Spanish gambling industry better but, still, warned against the possible adoption measures that could turn out to be too strict and could have the opposite effect, forcing the local players to gamble with unregulated gambling companies.
In any case, the Spanish Government is facing a difficult decision over the future regulation of the industry. For the time being, the gambling sector in the country is experiencing growth and is posting record revenue even following the significant economic damage that Spain suffered as a result of the global financial crisis. The financial benefits that a strong and thriving gambling sector would have on the country are obvious, but moral concerns are emerging, too, as anti-gambling campaigners insist on stricter regulation.