Spain’s state-run lottery under fire after teen claims €200k prize


spain-selae-lottery-underage-winnerSpain’s state-owned lottery is under fire after a 15-year-old was revealed as the winner of a €200k jackpot.

This weekend, Spanish media revealed that Cosmin Rotariu, a 15-year-old Barcelona student, held a winning €200k ticket in the latest El Niño lottery draw. The lucky kid helpfully informed reporters that he purchased the ticket with the €20 he’d won playing the El Gordo lottery shortly before Christmas.

Trouble is, the state-run Sociedad Estatal Loterías y Apuestas del Estado (SELAE) requires lottery players to be 18 years or older. Rotariu claims the ticket was purchased with his father Valeriu’s permission, although that doesn’t absolve the ticket seller or SELAE of its obligations to uphold the law.

Naturally, groups representing Spain’s licensed gambling operators – who are routinely subjected to accusations of luring underage gamblers to their doom – are calling on the government to hold someone – anyone – to account over this public relations cockup.

Spain’s government is currently mulling legislation that would severely limit the ability of private gambling operators to market their products, in effect, holding gambling to the same restrictions imposed on tobacco products. However, the government has been cagey as to whether these new rules would apply to state-run operators such as SELAE, who engage in highly visible marketing campaigns and sponsorship of sports events.

SELAE also operates digital sales channels and its website passed the 1m registered customer benchmark last June. Total online sales in 2017 exceeded €136m, a 17% improvement on 2016’s digital turnover.

CEJUEGO, the industry association that represents private gaming operators including Codere, CIRSA, R Franco and Novomatic, issued a statement saying it would reserve scathing comment until it could meet with officials at the Ministry of Finance to learn more about the government’s “policy and priorities regarding minors.”

However, CEJUEGO also noted that the media attention paid to young Cosmin’s windfall – including shots of the kid mugging for the camera outside the lottery office with the winning ticket in his mouth – was equally irresponsible and would likely encourage other kids to disregard the rules. Until next time, then…