Spain’s Gaming Regulator Under Fire For Not Reporting Violations

Spain’s gaming regulator has routinely been one of the more disciplined in the industry. However, accusations that it is stalling on certain aspects of its responsibilities are causing it some unnecessary grief.

The General Directorate for the Regulation of Gambling
The General Directorate for the Regulation of Gambling
Spain’s Minister of Consumer Affairs (center), Alberto Garzón Espinosa, chairs a meeting of the Gambling Policy Council. The country’s gambling regulator, which is part of the ministry, has become a target for not keeping up with some of its legal requirements. (Image: DGOJ)

Spain’s Ministry of Consumer Affairs (MCA) has a hefty backlog of serious sanctions on online gaming operators it hasn’t published. The General Directorate for the Regulation of Gambling (DGOJ, for its Spanish acronym) is responsible for providing that information to the MCA.

In the middle of last year, Spain modified its gambling laws in an effort to provide clarity on the reporting guidelines. Since then, the DGOJ was to publish “serious” and “very serious sanctions,” which didn’t have to be public knowledge before. However, the regulator isn’t fulfilling its mission.

DGOJ Not Keeping Up

The information is flowing slowly. The latest sanctions on the website of the DGOJ, which reports to the MCA, are from November of last year. Sources in the ministry have admitted a breakdown in the reporting, and indicate that the government department will publish new sanctions “soon.”

The MCA only has to publish these sanctions, according to the agency, once administrative proceedings are underway. This was one of the conditions the reform to Spain’s Gaming Law included.

The publication of advertising sanctions is necessary because licensed gaming operators can lose their license for violations. This applies to both online betting and physical operators.

If there is a pattern of “very serious” infractions in a two-year period, both at the state and regional regulatory level, the DGOJ has to consider a license revocation. However, since regional governments control the physical sportsbooks, they must have information about infractions at other levels.

Two serious offenses within two years can result in a “very serious” offense, according to the Gaming Law. Codere, one of Spain’s largest gaming operators, warned of the possibility of losing its license earlier this year.

In a filing its Codere Online subsidiary sent to NASDAQ, it alerted the stock exchange of a potential issue. It said it was at risk of losing its license in Spain due to the change in the Gaming Law. However, that has not occurred.

Out of Sight, Not Out of Mind

The MCA previously reported that it had issued fines to 19 operators in the online betting and gambling sector in 2021 for “serious” or “very serious” violations. In doing so, it issued fines totaling over €58 million (US$59.88 million). The total take can be less, as the government provides discounts for prompt payment.

That figure is higher than the previous record of €55.8 million (US$57.61 million) that the regulator collected a year earlier. However, in both cases, it’s likely that the DGOJ never saw most of that money. Many of the sanctioned companies have headquarters in places like Curaçao or Malta, and collecting the funds is challenging.

Most of the fines last year were for “very serious” violations targeting just eleven operators who were operating in Spain without a license. In addition to the fines, the DGOJ suspended them from entering the country for two years.

The rest of the fines were for “serious” infractions imposed on six companies. These were primarily for allowing prohibited persons to gamble. Many of these are registered in Spain’s national self-exclusion database (RIAJ, for its Spanish acronym).

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