Spain’s online gambling operators have been told to restrict their marketing efforts to avoid taking advantage of problem gamblers on lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Tuesday, Spanish media reported that the government’s Council of Ministers had taken the advice of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs to prohibit online gambling advertising for the duration of the country’s coronavirus lockdown “to prevent bookmakers from doing business with people’s concern and anxiety.”
Government official Pablo Iglesias issued the order saying that the decision was adopted “in a context of confinement that makes it even more necessary” to protect problem gamblers. The current COVID-19 lockdown is set to extend through April 12 and could be extended if the rates of community transmission remain unchecked.
The government was reportedly pushed to act after receiving reports from problem gambling groups that calls from addicted gamblers had increased since the lockdown was imposed.
In addition, the Dirección General de Ordenación del Juego (DGOJ) gambling regulator reportedly determined that online gambling activity hadn’t slowed despite the mass shutdown of sports events on which to wager. Sports bettors are apparently transferring their affections to other verticals like online casino or poker, as operators in other countries have reported.
The new restrictions apply to all media – television, radio and online – but will include a similar exemption for the hours of 1am-5am that were included in the proposed online gambling advertising rules that were unveiled last month. However, ads that appear in this window can’t appeal to player boredom to encourage them to wager online or offer any bonuses (bonus offers will still be permitted directly on gambling sites).
Prior to Tuesday’s announcement, nine Spanish gaming industry organizations issued a joint statement expressing their support for anti-coronavirus efforts and pledging their “full collaboration with those initiatives.” The statement also sought to reassure furloughed gaming staff that operators “will do everything possible to regain the jobs that have now been affected.”
Spain is hardly the only market to warn online gambling operators not to exploit the current situation for marketing purposes. The refrain has become so universal that a raft of European gambling sector trade groups issued guidance on ‘safer online gambling and responsible advertising’ in the time of cholera and/or COVID-19.