Gambling, casinos, slot halls and online casinos in Spain
Gambling in Spain
Spain has a central government, 17 autonomous regions, and two autonomous cities. Gambling was legalized in Spain in 1977. Slot machines were made legal in 1981. In 2006, the Spanish government passed its first online gambling laws, which legalized online sports-betting.
In the today Spain gambling is very popular. All types of games from public lotteries to slot machines which are installed in many bars can be found in the country. Official casinos typically operate in bigger cities and tourist areas. Popular “salas de juegos” (gaming places) can be seen everywhere. In salas de juegos, different types of slot machines as well as electronic roulettes and video poker can be played. There are no cards games or other games where human croupiers are needed in salas de juegos.
Laws and Regulators
The Spanish Gambling Act, Law 13/2011, which came into force on May 29, 2011, regulates gambling. The main aim of the federal Gambling Act is to harmonize the regulation of online gambling in Spain. The Gambling Act, as amended is the primary piece of legislation governing the federal gambling sector in Spain. At the same time, regional land-based gambling continues to be regulated by each autonomous region. According to the Act, online games that are played at the federal level require a federal license which is sufficient for operating in each region where the game operates. Games (including online games) played within a specific region require the relevant license of the autonomous region. Thus, regulation is divided between online gambling that is offered at the federal level and land-based gambling or online games that are offered at the regional level.
The Directorate General for the Regulation of Gambling (DGOJ) is the governing body of the Ministry of Finance which regulates, authorizes, supervises, controls, and penalizes gambling activities in Spain at the federal level (http://ordenacionjuego.es/es). The DGOJ was created in March, 2011. For regional authorizations, the respective regional competent body is in charge of issuing licenses, supervision, and law enforcement.
Land Based Casinos
The traditional face-to-face gambling (casinos, bingo halls, game rooms) is regulated according to what is established in each Autonomous Community, being outside the powers of the DGOJ.
There are 53 land-based casinos in Spain. They have separate areas for the table games and areas especially dedicated to slot machines and other electronic games. Most Spanish casinos have the same rules. They manage table seating on first-come, first served basis and place individuals who want to play on waiting lists for poker seats during peak periods. The minimum entrance and gambling age is 18. There is usually an entry fee. A valid photo ID is required. The dress code is casual or business casual. Visitors can wear long jeans, a shirt or a polo, and classic shoes; no shorts, sandals, or T-shirts are allowed. The official currency is the Euro, but most casinos accept all main world currencies at appropriate exchange rates.
Most casinos advertise their services on their special websites, for example, Casino Gran Madrid Torrelodones and Casino Barcelona.
Prior to the Gambling Act 2011, online games that were developed usually at the federal level were unregulated. Online gaming under the Gambling Act is performed through electronic channels, IT, and interactive systems. The communication network can include television, internet, land lines, mobile phones or any other interactive communication system (in real time or recorded). There are no differences between the regulation of mobile gambling and interactive gambling on television as the Gambling Act is equally applicable to both gambling activities.
The online gambling market is expanding in Spain. Gross gaming revenue for the Spanish igaming market for the three months to March 31, 2019 amounted to EUR 193.3 million, an increase from EUR 163.3 million in the same period in 2018 and from EUR 189.2 million posted in the Q4 of 2018. There was significant growth in the online casino market in Q1 2019, with revenue EUR 67.1 million (compared to EUR 56.6 million in Q1 2018), making it responsible for 34.7% of the Spanish igaming market in Q1 2019. Online casino revenue jumped 51% year-on-year, more than half of which was attributable to slot games (52.7%).
Online gambling in Spain can be offered in one specific autonomous region or at the federal level, which is the most common case for online gaming. As the federal license covers every region, an operator does not need to apply for a regional one. The main restrictions are related to whether the type of game is approved. If a game is not approved, the operator is not authorized to offer it.
Since June 1, 2012, only companies with a Spanish government-issued license and an .es domain have been allowed to run online gambling sites in Spain. Licenses issued by foreign countries are not valid in the country. Operators licensed in the European Economic Area member states must apply for a Spanish license. The Spanish authorities take action to ensure that gambling services cannot be offered by unlicensed offshore operators.
Before taking part in online gambling, it is highly recommended to identify the operator behind the gambling offer and check whether it has a license; the Directorate General for Gambling Regulation publishes an updated list of licensed operators on its website.
The Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla (autonomous cities located on the north coast of Morocco) are taking aim at Gibraltar’s status as online gambling hub with generous tax breaks. The Spanish Government introduced an amendment to the Spanish Gambling Act in 2018 establishing a 50% reduction in the applicable gambling tax rates (except for sport-betting organized at the federal level) for operators with tax residence and actually established in the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla.