Spanish police find little evidence of underage gambling

7 October 2019

A national investigation by the Spanish police found little evidence of underage gambling across the country’s licensed gambling premises.

La Policía Nacional’s Operation Arcade, in which more 3,000 spot inspections of almost 1,900 gaming halls throughout Spain were carried out over a 48-hour period, uncovered only 28 cases of minors gambling.

The operation took place across all regions of the country aside from the Basque Country, and covered more than half of all licensed gaming premises in the country.

The National Police identifies only 28 minors in the 3,000 visits made to almost 1,900 game rooms throughout Spain, with some inspected more than once.

With only a small number of instances of underage gambling uncovered, Spanish operator association Consejo Empresarial del Juego (CEJUEGO) claimed that this showed press reports of widespread underage play were off the mark.

“This operation has been quite exhaustive, focusing on verifying the actual incidence of minors in accessing in-person gambling services,” CEJUEGO director general Alejandro Landaluce said. “The resulting data reaffirms our conviction that, although there is room for improvement in technological systems used to control access [to gambling venues], there is no real problem regarding minors entering gaming halls.”

Landaluce went on to attack “unjustified” media reports on underage gambling, suggesting that Operation Arcade had been portrayed as a crackdown on a widespread problem in the country. Recent reports in the Spanish press have suggested that the Spain has the highest rate of teenage gambling addiction in Europe.

“As CEJUEGO has been saying, it is totally false that minors are [regularly] accessing these premises,” he explained. “On the contrary, the cases detected are absolutely minimal.

“These official and public studies already confirmed this fact, and now the results of Operation Arcade reaffirm it,” he added.

CEJUEGO noted that while underage gambling is almost non-existent in Spain’s retail gaming market, it was looking at new ways to stamp out the problem entirely. This will see it utilise technology to better verify player identities, as well as implementing new restrictions across all sub-sectors and channels.

The results of the operation come as CEJUEGO steps up efforts to improve the image of Spain’s gambling industry. This has already seen it publish a survey in June, which claimed that around 92% of the country’s population saw gambling as an acceptable form of leisure activity.

This is being conducted against the threat of tighter restrictions on gambling operators, such as advertising controls that would see the industry treated in a similar way to the tobacco sector.

Over the weekend, Spanish media also reported on public protests against the proliferation of gambling in the country.