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.