Spain - A Passionate Gambling Nation!

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by Dave Brown
Spanish Gambling Market

Spain is not only known and loved for its delicious tapas, breathtaking landscapes, beautiful beaches, and incredible architecture, but it is also the realm of passionate gamblers. Just how passionate?

It would appear that the Spanish bet more money on their hobby compared to any other nation in Europe, while also competing with some of the greatest gambling countries around the world.

Wagering more than €1.9 billion a year or the equivalent of 15% of the net household income on average, they are interested in lotteries, football betting, slots, bingo, casinos, illegal horse race betting on foreign races in resort areas and many more.

Rooted in a Basque ball game, jai-alai is the fastest game in the world and it manages to attract the attention of millions of Spanish players.

It is currently played in the Basque Country and Madrid with prizes reaching hundreds of thousands of euros.

Let's take a deeper look at the defining elements of the Spanish gambling scene and try to determine what the future holds for the 46.5 million citizens and the millions of yearly visitors.

Spain Is Host To The Biggest Lottery On The Planet

Without a doubt, the Spanish gambling scene is dominated by lotteries.

The state national lottery is the most popular form of gambling in the country, partly because it aids various charities and supports the Catholic Church.

Tickets are sold all throughout the country in lottery offices and they can also be purchased from street vendors at a higher price. The Spanish organization for the blind ONCE also has lottery kiosks that are manned by the blind or by people with impaired vision. They organize daily draws and also sell scratchcards called Rasca y Gana.

El Gordo (“the fat one”) is the largest lottery in the world and it is organized each Christmas in Spain. The lottery issues 108 series of 66,000 tickets sold at €200 each.

The high price is oftentimes divided into ten shares, with clubs and charities buying tens or for just a few euros.

A total of €1.7 billion is wagered on the big jackpot, with 70% of the amount paid in the form of various prizes. The lottery has its own website and a few Spanish villages seem to be constantly selling winning tickets.

Sort is such a village located in the Pyrenees. Its name means “luck” in Catalan, so there is no wonder so many people stay in line to buy tickets here. All lottery prizes are tax-free.

El Niño (“the child”) is the second-biggest lottery in Spain and its name is inspired by baby Jesus. The lottery is also known as the little brother of El Gordo.

It takes place on the 6th of January and many people are known to been known to drive for hundreds of miles just to buy a ticket in hopes of being the next big winner of a life-changing jackpot.

Land Casinos In Spain

Just like the rest of the strong economies in Europe, the Spanish economy has also gone through many hardships as a result of the 2009 crisis.

The economy is still not in its ideal shape, with ten percent fo the population living near poverty and 3 in 10 youngsters being unemployed.

Nevertheless and surprisingly enough, the gambling industry has been on the rise in recent years. Special emphasis should be put on the fast-paced growth of online gambling as the top-rated online casinos have their games and promotions in Spanish and very often also in Portuguese. 

Spaniards have always loved gambling and they always found ways to go round the restrictive rules and quench their thirst for wagering. They did so even during the Franco years, when gambling had to be a secret activity. Things have changed dramatically and today Spanish gamers have plenty of legal options out in the open available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

At the moment, Spain has around 55 brick-and-mortar casinos at the moment, along with 40 poker rooms.

Gibraltar also hosts a land casino. The largest casino in the country is Gran Madrid Torrelodones found in Madrid and hosting almost 40 table games, 200 slots and video poker machines and 25 poker tables.

The most popular games played inside these venues dispersed in 33 cities are roulette in both American and French forms, chemin de fer, blackjack and punto y banca.

Spanish gamblers and tourists can also take advantage of slot machines and private gambling venues with entry fees at the doors.

Visitors are asked to show their passport. This measure is necessary in order to avoid allowing professional gamblers in. the majority of land casinos are open starting the late hours of the afternoon to the early hours of the morning.

Players are asked to respect the smart casual dress code and they are not allowed to wear T-shirt, sandals or jeans.

Football Betting In The Country

The country is absolutely mad about sport and football is the absolute king here, like it is the case for the UK and many other countries around the world. Accordingly, football betting is a huge business in Spain.

However, sports like tennis or basketball and even horse racing are should also be mentioned here. In 2017, sports and casino gambling accounted for €560 million in total revenues.

The citizens of Spain are not the only ones who contribute to these numbers. Yearly visitors and tourists like to check out the land casinos in Spain every time they get the chance.

No less than 27 percent of British tourists would mention gambling as one of their favorite activities when visiting Spain. Among them, more than 40 percent wager between £501 and £5,000.

The country is visited by more than 65 million people on a yearly basis, so their influence on the total revenues of the industry is undeniable.

Gambling Regulations For Spanish Operators

The introduction of the Gambling Act in 2011 was a highly anticipated decision that completely changed the gambling scene here. While gambling has been legal for the last three decades in the country and it was overseen by 17 autonomous communities in the country, the Gambling Act has brought a fresh breath of air to the industry.

The Act helped regulate and harmonize online betting regulations. The Act still empowers the autonomous communities to continue determining the majority of gambling regulations and policies within their respective regions.

The Spanish Gambling Act is meant to regulate domestic gambling operations via technological and electronic means. This includes anything from the internet to mobile phones and any other interactive communication system.

The act also regulates lottery games controlled by LAE and ONCE operators.

The Act also covers advertising and sponsorship matters related to betting activities in the country, prohibiting advertising, sponsorship as well as the endorsement of all gambling activities carried by operators how are not licensed.

All gaming operators who choose to offer betting services to Spanish citizens must obtain a license issued by the National Gambling Commission. No license is transferable and being granted one automatically means paying the necessary taxes and conducting all activities using a .es domain. All connections to any additional domains created from various locations in should also be redirected.

The Spanish Gambling Act is excellent at stopping illegal gaming operators from offering their services to Spanish citizens.

Close to 50 websites have closed down voluntarily once the Spanish Gambling Act has been officially implemented.

How Does Spanish Gambling Compare With Other European Countries?

The United Kingdom continues to be one of the top-ranking nations when it comes to European gambling, thanks to the well-regulated online and offline markets. However, thanks to the Spanish Gambling Act, the online gambling market here could surpass the uncrowned king of online gambling, the UK.

France also hits 33 million casino visitors on a yearly basis but their harsh licensing procedures and high taxes are not helping the country be more open to further growth.

Portugal has escaped the control of the monopoly SMCL and its current SRIJ regulation of the gambling market has allowed it to be more willing to welcome more online gaming operators, despite the high taxes.

Forecasting Spain's Gambling Future

In June 2018 the Spanish regulators decided to cut the tax rate for gambling profits from 20% to 15% so it could match the anti-discriminatory EU tax policies. It is also believed that some of the gambling operators located in Gibraltar (which is controlled by the British) would be interested in moving into Spain after BREXIT, hence the reasons for the drop in the previously discussed tax. Nonetheless, it is predicted that by 2024 the annual figures will go as high as €1.8 billion a year.

It is fair to predict that the gambling scene will continue to evolve and thrive in Spain in the upcoming years, given people's love for all forms of betting and gambling. Plus, the industry could turn into one of the most important contributor to the economy – and, according to some voices, maybe even turn into its savior. Besides being a significant taxpayer, gambling is also an essential generator of new jobs, not to mention the huge role it plays in entertaining millions of people in and out of the country.

Other Articles in our series of "Gaming Industries Around the World":

Latin America - A Growing Gambling Market!

Japan - A Casino Market Worth $15 Billion!

Nigeria - All You Need to Know About Gambling in Nigeria

France - On Top of The Gambling World

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