Slots and sports boost Spain’s online gambling revenue


Spain’s online gambling market reported double-digit growth in the first quarter of 2020, with all gaming verticals reporting strong year-on-year improvements.

Figures released Friday by Spain’s Dirección General de Ordenación del Juego (DGOJ) regulatory body show locally licensed online operators generated revenue of just under €218m in the three months ending March 31, up 12.5% from the same period last year and 17.6% better than the final quarter of 2019, which suffered a rare example of negative growth.

Sports betting remained the dominant vertical with revenue of €110.6m in Q1, up 8.6% year-on-year and nearly one-quarter higher than Q419. In-play betting revenue increased 4% to €61.3m despite in-play turnover falling 18.5% year-on-year. Pre-match wagering mirrored this pattern, with revenue rising 13.1% to €46.3m despite turnover falling 10%.

Casino revenue was up 8.3% year-on-year to €77.6m, thanks to strong growth in slots (€43.2m, +15.7%), live roulette ( €18.4m, +35.6%) and traditional roulette (€10.7m, +16.7%). On the flip side, blackjack revenue was down 17.1% to €5.3m while baccarat was off nearly 80% to just €614k.

Online poker revenue jumped 13.1% year-on-year to €24.2m as tournaments improved by nearly 16% to €16.1m while cash games rose a respectable 8% to €8.1m. Both tournament fees (+30.7%) and cash games stakes (+22.8%) reported solid year-on-year growth.

As for the market’s lesser lights, bingo was up 14.7% to €3.7m while the ‘contests’ segment doubled year-on-year to €1.9m.

Spanish-licensed operators spent €118.2m on marketing during Q1, up 28.3% from the same period last year. Advertising spend rose nearly one-quarter to €59.9m while bonus offers jumped 46% to €42.4m. Affiliate marketing nudged up 1% to €10.3m while sponsorship spending rose 23% to €6m.

Despite this spending increase, only 868k new online gambling accounts were opened during Q1, a year-on-year increase of only 5.6%, while active accounts were basically flat at 911k.

All marketing expenditure will undergo significant reductions if Spain presses forward with plans to dramatically reduce its online licensees’ promotional efforts. Stakeholders’ reaction to Thursday’s announcement has been fast and furious, with particular emphasis on the furious.

Spanish online operator association Jdigital noted that Spain’s “worrisome” plans to restrict nearly all gambling promos contained a hypocritical carveout for the state-run SELAE lottery operation (which, in typical tone-deaf fashion, chose Thursday to unveil the new marketing campaign for its annual Christmas Lottery).

Jdigital expressed hope that the European Commission would take note of this blatant favoritism, while claiming that the “discrimination and harassment of private gaming” appeared to reflect more of an “ideological” response than “credible consumer protection objectives.”

The Cejuego industry group was similarly skeptical that Spain’s “completely discriminatory treatment” would meet with EC approval, saying there was “no data or cause” to support the government’s contention that gambling marketing was harming Spanish consumers.