Spanish Ban on Gambling Sponsorships Set to Be Extended

Spain’s consumer Affairs Minister, Alberto Garzón, has proposed a total ban on gambling sponsorships in football. In an updated version of the Royal Decree on Commercial Communications of Gambling Activities, Garzón wants to expand the country’s ban on advertising gambling companies that were introduced during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Spanish Government Considers Football Gambling Sponsorship Ban © Pixabay.

Garzon’s left-wing Unidas Podemos party campaigned heavily against gambling, pledging to prioritise the protection of youngsters against gambling harm and to tackle gambling addiction. Unidas Podemos secured enough votes in the election to form a coalition government with the Socialist Party in January. In April, with Spain having 172,541 cases of Covid-19 and rapidly rising by 4,000 cases a day, the government introduced what was in effect, a de facto gambling advertising ban.

Article 37 contained the following provisions;

Gambling advertising that refers (either implicitly or explicitly) to the current Covid-19 crisis is prohibited. Promotional activities aimed at attracting new customers or maintaining the loyalty of existing customers that make use of bonuses, discounts, prizes, or other gifts of economic value are not allowed. Broadcast advertising is only permitted between 01:00, and 05:00 am. The same restrictions apply to online video platforms and video-on-demand services. Online advertising, including individual email and social media messages, must be suspended.

The new provisions also state that failure to comply with these measures will be considered a “grave infraction” of Spain’s current Gambling Act. The revised proposals put forward by Garzón expand the original February proposals and are more extreme than the emergency laws brought in in April. Evening football games (8 pm or later) were initially exempt in the February draft of the decree with Garzón initially conceding that evening games would be permissible, a stance he has now changed as the law would cover all football games.

The current ‘horario de Madrugada’ window, which prevents operators from running gambling-related adverts from all times except 1 am – 5 am will be kept in place and will apply to TV, Radio as well as online. Making it very difficult for companies to attract new customers. The naming of sporting venues and other areas such as training grounds after gambling companies will be forbidden, as will naming a football club using a brand name associated with gambling.

Another blow to operators will be the banning of welcome bonuses for new accounts. Highly effective for attracting new customers, these promotions offered matched deposits and free bets. The Spanish government placed a €100 maximum on these offers in the emergency laws that came into effect, if these proposals are passed, all enticements will be forbidden.

Spain’s football clubs are likely to be hit hard if the proposals are put into law. Already suffering financially due to being forced to play behind closed doors, many top-flight clubs have partnerships and sponsorships with gambling companies.

In La Liga, Alavés, Granada, Leganés, Levante, Osasuna, Real Mallorca, Sevilla and Valencia all have their main shirt sponsorship deals with gambling companies. And other clubs such as Real Madrid have direct commercial relationships with gambling operators. The decree will now go before the European Commission and Spain’s Council of State. Garzón has publicly stated that he was hoping to have it ratified in time for the 2020-2021 season, as things stand this should on the 12th of September this year.

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