Local Spanish operator returns online gambling license; Spain rejects Codere favouritism

spain-online-gambling-license-returnedAround the same time Finnish betting operator Paf announced it was closing its Spanish-facing online poker room, Madrid-based slots operator Fórmulas y Soluciones Inc. (FyS) was going into the history books as the first of Spain’s 53 online gambling licensees to return its license to Spanish gaming regulator Dirección General de Ordenación del Juego (DGoJ). The DGoJ site posted a notice saying it had accepted the return of FyS’ online sports betting license on February 12, a mere eight months after issuing it on June 19, 2012.

While Paf maintained that it would continue offering non-poker products to Spanish punters, FyS has decided to go completely offline, apparently convinced it’s just not worth the bother. (Spain’s online sports betting market is essentially owned by four companies: Bet365, Bwin.party, Sportingbet and William Hill.) If there’s an upside here, it’s that FyS is entitled to at least a partial refund of the fees incurred from acquiring the license. Several other operators – particularly in the poker sector – struggling to make a go of things in Spain’s restrictive market are reportedly considering following FyS’ lead, or taking the only other option available to them: selling the subsidiary that holds the Spanish license, assuming they could find a buyer.

Meanwhile, Spain’s Ministry of Finance has published an angry rebuttal to a recent report by Bloomberg that claimed last year’s online licensing process had been skewed to favor domestic gaming company Codere, or more to the point, to disfavor Codere’s international competitors. Secretary of State for Finance Miguel Ferre wrote that it was “absolutely false that there has been favorable treatment during the licensing process” or that any particular company had benefited from enhanced scrutiny of international license applicants. Claiming otherwise “is not minimally founded” and represents “a serious and reckless assertion.”

Without mentioning Codere by name, the Ministry of Finance accuses Bloomberg of failing to check if there were other operators that “initially met all necessary requirements as the publicized one did.” The Spanish declaration of war then lists the companies that met this criteria, including Codere, Cirsa, FyS and five others, who apparently all stood to benefit from increased scrutiny of the other license applicants. Since this list was “easily verifiable information,” Spain believes Bloomberg’s report involved “manipulation of some information” to reach an “inaccurate and incomplete” conclusion. The Ministry of Finance closes by expressing its deep regret over “the falseness of the accusations made, the distortion of veracity and the lack of journalistic rigor underlying such information.”