Spain restricts igaming advertising amid Covid-19 pandemic

1 April 2020

The Spanish government has adopted a series of new measures to preserve social and economic order during the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, including strict new restrictions on online gaming advertising.

Article 37 of Royal Decree 11/2020, which was published in Spain’s Official Gazette yesterday (31 March), states that audiovisual communications for gambling operators will only be permitted to broadcast between 1AM and 5AM.

This new advertising window was established in the government’s overhaul of gambling marketing regulations, published in February.

However, that provided an exception for advertising around live sports broadcasts that kicked off between 8PM and 5AM. With no sports currently being played, this effectively removes advertising from Spanish screens.

Communications on digital channels will also be affected, with individual email communications and direct advertising on social media prohibited. Furthermore, operators may not run acquisition or retention campaigns that offer financial rewards, bonuses, discounts, free bets or games, odds multipliers or any other form of prize.

The content of advertising will be monitored, with the decree warning that operators may not implicitly or explicitly refer to the pandemic, or promote gambling as a way to alleviate boredom.

Local media reports that the government, took action after the country’s gambling regulator La Dirección General de Ordenación del Juego (DGOJ) revealed that there has been an uptick, rather than a downturn, in gambling activity in recent weeks.

Spain, which has already seen its state-owned lottery Sociedad Estatal Loterías y Apuestas del Estado (SELAE) shut down operations, becomes the latest country to introduce new advertising controls or guidelines as a result of the Covid-19 crisis.

The Malta Gaming Authority has warned licensees not to mention Covid-19 in their commercial communications, while the Dutch regulator Kansspelautoriteit will impose a €50,000 premium on illegal activity fines for marketing that references the pandemic.

The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA), meanwhile, has coordinated action between a number of operator associations across Europe, to set out new guidelines for members.