June 20, 2008

Spain to license egaming operators by 2009

Spain is on course to have a system in place for regulating online betting and gaming by the spring of 2009, according to legal observers.

Discussion of the various conditions the eventual regulation would need to fulfil dominated the agenda at the most recent quarterly meeting between federal and regional betting and gaming authorities in Barcelona on Tuesday. Senior representatives from the LAE (the National Gaming Commission), the Spanish tax authorities, the Home Affairs Ministry, the Ministry of Industry and the gaming offices of each of Spain’s 17 regions were in attendance.

In addition to arrangements for distributing the tax income collected by central government among the 17 regional governments according to the origin of the bets placed or games played, the importance of developing a system which was 100% compatible with EC law, but which also offered full protection to consumer and sensitive groups, such as minors and problem gamblers; was debated in detail, according to Xavier Munoz, betting and gaming law specialist at Spanish firm Legal Link.

Also raised was the possibility of creating a registry of self-excluded players, which all operators authorised to do business in Spain would be required to access, to ensure bets originating from those on the registry would not be accepted. Finally, the Spanish authorities declared their intent at the meeting to be much more aggressive towards non-authorised operators than at present, following the introduction of the new regime.

Referring to conversations he has had with LAE officials since the meeting, Albert Agustinoy, betting and gaming lawyer at Barcelona firm Cuatrecasas, said: “Adverts, promotion or sponsorship by non-authorised operators in Spain will lead to a tougher approach by the Spanish authorities and quite likely to enforcement action.”

Although formal drafting of the bill has yet to commence, Agustinoy said Tuesday’s meeting represented something of a landmark for the egaming industry. “It was the formal launching of the legitimate process, which will lead to a system that will allow operators throughout the EU to legally develop their activities in Spain,” he said.

Agustinoy predicted the Spanish authorities would likely follow a similar schedule to that recently set out by the French authorities, with licences to be issued to operators by the end of 2009.

The drafting of formal guidelines should be underway by the time the state and regional betting authorities meet again in the autumn.

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