Spain has introduced recent regulatory changes that are expected to lead to a  significant growth of the Spanish gambling market. In particular, the introduction of  slots and the launch of a new public tender for general gambling licenses is expected  to generate this growth.

Although Spain is considered one of the most relevant  European markets for online gambling operators, the  industry and market specialists agree that Spain continues  to have remarkable potential for growth. Indeed, since  the new regulatory framework was launched over three  years ago, operators doing business in the Spanish  market have faced a number of difficulties that limited  their ability to offer attractive products.

The Spanish authorities have not ignored this situation,  and in recent months, they have taken a number of  steps aimed at making the applicable regulations more  business-friendly (while continuing to ensure high  regulatory standards) and creating a more attractive  regulated market.

In this respect, the first significant measure that has  been adopted consists of a review of the regulations  applicable to some of the most successful products in the  market. In this sense, betting operators have seen how  the previous system, which was based on a unique (and  rigid) official catalogue of events and markets, no longer  applies. In this new context, sportsbook operators are  legally entitled to offer their own catalogues of events and betting markets, which allows them to market  a wider range of bets (and, therefore, increase the  attractiveness of their products). 

A similar step was made with bingo. This game has been significantly liberalized by abandoning a system of pre- defined modalities and allowing operators to offer all types of bingo games as well as permitting them to use elements other than numbers for the development of the games (such as, for example, symbols).

Although the above-mentioned measures are important,  the most exciting news has come from the publication  of the decrees allowing the operation of new games.  According to these decrees, licensed operators in Spain  will be allowed to offer exchange betting and online slot  machine games in the very near future. Introducing these  types of games should be a very relevant factor that will  make the market more dynamic and promote growth  (as has been the case in other regulated markets that  followed a similar approach, such as Italy). Slot machine  games were a key product in the operators’ portfolios  before the regulations were approved. Therefore,  counting again with it in a regulated environment will  improve the business expectations of operators in Spain.

Indeed, all these regulatory developments are expected  to lead to significant new opportunities in the Spanish  market. Actually, specialized media – such as Gambling  Compliance – estimate that these new developments  should cause the Spanish market to double in size in 2015  and follow a trajectory of steady and sustained growth in  the upcoming years. 

In this respect, the next major regulatory step will be  re-opening the market to new entrants. This will be  implemented by launching a new tender for applying for  general licences in Spain. Operators already present in  the regulated Spanish market will only be allowed to  apply for the licences covering the new games once the  above-mentioned tender has been officially called. The  Spanish authorities have adopted this approach with the  intention to ensure that all the licensed operators launch  the new range of games at the same time (and, therefore,  ensuring that no operator encounters a competitive  disadvantage). 

The timeline for completing this new licensing process  (culminating with the actual launching of new products)  remains uncertain. Nevertheless, the authorities intend  to move as quickly as possible. Currently, the process  is expected to be completed during the first quarter  of 2015. Whether this timeline is accurate remains to  be seen. In any case, however, what is sure is that the  Spanish authorities have launched a process that should  produce dynamic growth in the market.