Spain seeks end to gambling sports sponsorship, welcome bonus offers


Spain’s online gambling operators are up in arms after the government unveiled strict new promotional limits, including an end to football shirt sponsorship and welcome bonuses.

On Thursday, Spain’s Ministry of Consumer Affairs sent the latest draft of its Royal Decree on gambling advertising to the European Commission for approval. The Ministry had previously signaled its intention to impose new ad limits that were more strict than the temporary pandemic limits that were lifted last month.

Among the more significant elements of the latest draft is the brief statement that gambling operators’ sponsorship of sports jerseys or kits “will not be admissible.” The draft also seeks a ban on betting operators inking naming rights deals for sports venues, leagues and competitions, while decisions on whether to prohibit pitch-side gambling advertising will be left up to individual Spanish states.

The proposed limits would have a significant impact on La Liga, Spain’s top-flight football organization, which has a betting partnership with Cirsa’s Sportium brand. Numerous clubs currently feature gambling brands as their main kit sponsor and many others have some form of betting partnership.

Spain is also seeking to eliminate all welcome bonus offers, while allowing other bonus offers only for customers who have had an account for over one month and made “a minimum of three deposits” to their account. In February, the Ministry proposed capping all bonus offers at €100 but the new draft says only that the state gambling regulator “may develop the conditions and limits” for bonus offers as it sees fit.

The new draft maintains the narrow 1am-5am window for gambling promos via TV, radio and online video platforms but eliminates the previous carveout for advertising during live sports events. Predictably, these restrictions don’t apply to the state-run SELAE lottery business, which can still market its brand so long as it avoid references to specific lottery products.  

The Ministry hopes to have the proposed restrictions enshrined into law ahead of the 2020-21 La Liga season, although approval must first be obtained by not only the European Commission but also Spain’s Council of Ministers. In the meantime, expect serious pushback from the gaming sector, sports bodies and free speech advocates.

Late last month, Minister of Consumer Affairs Alberto Garzón testified before the Senate Health and Consumption Commission that gambling advertising was currently subject only to “a jungle law” in which operators could “put any type of message on any medium at any time.”

Garzón (pictured) claimed that Spanish gambling operators were spending €300m per year marketing their products at local consumers, adding that “advertising does not exhaust the scope of explanations for why cases of pathological gambling and gambling disorders occur, but it certainly has an incidence.”