Spain’s ombudsman is urging the government to impose a total ban on advertising gambling products and services, albeit with an explicit carve-out for state-run lottery operations.
On Monday, Spanish media reported that Acting Ombudsman Francisco Fernández Marugán (pictured left) had submitted documentation recommending that the government consider a total ban on gambling advertising – in particular online gambling advertising – with the notable exception of the state-run SELAE and ONCE lottery and pool-betting operations.
Last October, Spain’s Finance Minister María Jesús Montero announced plans to restrict gambling advertising much as the nation restricts advertising tobacco products. Gambling ads would be prohibited from airing on any broadcast media – television, radio, internet, etc. – during periods in which minors might be watching/listening. The government would also ban celebrity endorsements and gambling signage at sports events.
Marugán says that these restrictions would be reasonable if a total ban isn’t imposed, while suggesting that infractions of the proposed restrictions could result in revocation of an operator’s gambling license. But Marugán justified the idea of a blanket ban by claiming that the right of a business to advertise was not enshrined in Spanish law. Marugán further argued that gambling was “a public health issue that requires a regulatory framework with imperative legal norms.”
Marugàn takes the biscuit by suggesting that “a self-regulation model would not be effective” in achieving effective consumer protections, apparently oblivious that’s the very model he’s recommending for the state-run operators.
For example, while private gambling operators would be prohibited from featuring “people with public notoriety” in their marketing, SELAE recently unveiled a new campaign featuring former football great Julen Lopetegui singing the praises of SELAE’s Quiniela pool-betting product.
Further evidence of hypocrisy was on full display in January, when SELAE was forced to wipe egg off its public face after a 15-year-old claimed a €200k jackpot via the El Niño lottery, which is supposed to be restricted to players 18 years or older.
Spain’s regional broadcasters have already begun rejecting gambling adverts based on their stated aim of “protecting and safeguarding … the most vulnerable.” Yet here too, the government has put its thumb on the scale by giving a pass to ads promoting the ONCE lottery.