Sports betting fuelling online Spanish boom

The fast-growing Spanish online gaming and betting market could soon be worth a billion euros a year, with experts predicting plenty of room for growth in the booming sector.

Sports betting fuelling online Spanish boom
Photo: AFP

Online betting figures for 2017 show gross gaming revenue for sports and casino games rocketed to €560 million ($687 million), driven largely by sports.

Christian Tirabassi, senior partner at consultancy firm Ficom Leisure, said Spain is “on the radar of the international market”.   

“I definitely see the market growing both in online and retail betting and think this market will easily hit €1 billion to €1.5 billion in the next three to five years,” added Tirabassi, speaking at a betting on football
conference in London.   

Tirabassi said the Spanish betting market was maturing and had grown considerably over the past three decades. The first betting shop did not open until 2008.

Jacob Lopez Curciel, chief executive of sports betting and gaming company Optima, said there were still opportunities in Spain, unlike in other countries where the market was “saturated”.

But he warned that too much in the way of new regulations could make it too expensive for betting operators to enter the market.   

“There could be some consolidation such as multimedia products and between retail and online,” he said, adding that horse racing could add more choice for Spanish punters.

“The operators and suppliers of technology for racing are producing streaming and will work very well for Spanish players,” he said.    

“At the moment for Spanish players the sports they bet on are football, basketball and tennis but I think horse racing is growing, quite fast actually, and it is a product that has to be there.”

Mikel Lopez de Torre, chairman of Spanish online gambling trade body Jdigital, said consolidation was inevitable, given it has already begun in Britain.

He agrees the billion-euro mark will be reached but believes there will be changes in the market as it matures.   

“I think there is certainly going to be consolidation,” he said.   

“There are 50 brands (bookmakers) and another 10 or 12 in the pipeline and there is already consolidation happening in the United Kingdom, which will impact.

“It is hard to see how we can make room for 12 more brands without seeing any consolidation beginning with those at the bottom of the pyramid and that has to start in the next five years.”

By Pirate Irwin / AFP


Spain to force gamblers to set time and spending limit before playing online

The Spanish government wants to limit the amount of time and money gamblers spend on online betting and gambling platforms by making them set limits before they start playing. 

Spain to force gamblers to set time and spending limit before playing online

This is the proposal in the latest draft decree of Spain’s General Directorate of Gambling which could be approved at the end of 2021 or early 2022.

Under the new rules, people who play online games such as bingo, roulette, black jack, baccarat and virtual fruit machines would have to first set how much money they intend to gamble and how long they intend to play. 

Whichever of the two limits runs out first would end the gambling session. 

If the law is approved, online gamblers in Spain will still be able to start another session straight afterwards, as the objective of the law is to help prevent players from losing control over what they’re spending and to give them a break to let the adrenaline rush drop and a moment to reconsider their options. 

In any case, online gamblers in Spain would have a daily spending limit of €600 or €1,500 a week if the draft law is approved.

With this clause, lawmakers hope to distinguish “serious” gamblers – those who surpass the 50 percent daily limit of €300 – from those who don’t play online as regularly. 

Once an online gambler was classified as “serious” (intensivo), they would not be allowed to pay for their gambling sessions with a credit card in order to prevent them from piling up debt. 

Spanish authorities are particularly concerned about the increasing number of young people who are becoming addicted to gambling and betting sites, often lured in by the promise of free bets when signing up.  

A 2019 report by Spain’s Federation of Rehabilitated Gamblers found that Spain has the highest rate of young gamblers (aged 14 to 21) in the EU. 

READ MORE: Spain has Europe’s highest rate of teen gamblers

The pandemic, including the lockdowns, restrictions and boredom that have come with it, have only served to intensify the trend. 

The average annual spending per player in Spain went from €312 in 2016 to €533 in 2020.

Under the new rules, young people would be considered “serious” gamblers if they spent 25 percent of the limits set: €150 for two days in a row, or €375 over the course of two weeks. 

More than 8.5 percent of online gamblers in Spain (of the 1.5 million total of active players) do not reach the mentioned levels that signal addiction.