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Online Gambling Regulation in Spain, As Discussed by Affiliate Judd Muir

As an affiliate operating in Spain, I’ve been closely following the Spanish legal situation as it unfolded over the last year. Rumors abounded, and even those close to the source had conflicting stories to relate. What was clear to me was that there was a huge amount of confusion, that the government had vastly underestimated the complexity of the task at hand, and that no one REALLY knew what was going to happen. Throw into the mix the Spanish general election in November, with the general consensus that there would be a change of government, and it was a recipe for uncertainty.
In the event, Spain elected for a change of government, fueling the rumors that the implementation of the Ley de Juego would be delayed. The law as it stood was supposed to come into force on Jan 1 2012, or whenever the first license was issued, whichever came first.
With Dec 21 as the target date for the first license to be issued, there was a flurry of activity in the build-up to the Christmas holidays. I received numerous emails from operators pulling out of the Spanish market asking me to stop promoting them, and emails from those staying in the market warning of lower commissions and restrictions of games offered to Spanish players.
The newly-elected center-right government of the Partido Popular was sworn in on December 20, so I had my doubts about licenses being issued the very next day on the 21st– and sure enough, not a squeak until December 31, when the government issued a Royal Decree extending the current transition period for all operators (whether they applied for a license or not) until the earlier of the following dates: June 30, 2012 or the day where the first set of licenses has been granted. (Anyone interested to read the decree, it’s here.)
Recommended: Check out Judd Muir’s webinar discussing online regulation in Spain and how affiliates can succeed there.
Reactions are mixed, to say the least. Affiliates such as myself breathed a sigh of relief, as we can continue to promote who we like without fear of being fined or concerns over drops in revenue. Operators such as Unibet back-peddled on their previous emails, staying in the market until further notice. Operators such as Botemanía were relieved, as they can hold on to their slots earnings for a few more months. Players were happy that they were not going to face restrictions on where they can play, what they can wager, and reduced liquidity (not to mention their tax obligations, but that’s another story). But it wasn’t good news all round – many license applicants were made by those hoping to come online after years of being left out in the cold – e.g. land-based casinos, TV stations, slot machine manufacturers. Those in the this last group gain nothing from a delay, but have already stumped up the cash for a license and put in place the necessary operational and technical resources, so they’re out of pocket and frustrated.
So what’s the official line for the delay in implementation? Partly chest-beating, I suspect, as the incoming government wants to be seen to take control – for some months they’ve been at iGaming conferences declaring their concerns over the Ley de Juego as it stood. They’re more business-friendly, and understand the concerns that the implementation of the Ley without provision for the revenue-generating games such as slots is nonsensical – less earnings by operators equates to less tax in the government coffers, after all.
Although there’s been a delay of up to six months, I expect movement earlier than that as interested parties (aka those that have stumped up the cash already!) put pressure on the government. So, many months into the legislative process, uncertainty and confusion continue to reign – but at least for many of us, it’s an opportunity to, “Make hay while the sun shines!”

About Judd Muir
Judd Muir owns and runs Yabadoo!, a Spanish bingo portal with a community approach. He graduated from Oxford University in 1993 with a degree in Engineering Science and freelanced his way through the growth of the Internet before joining on-line hotel reservations provider as CTO in 1999. He started working in the affiliate field in 2002, launching several successful hotel portals. After an introduction to the iGaming industry acting as an SEO consultant for JuegaTuSuerte (now Botemanía), Judd decided to experiment with building a gambling-themed community site.
Yabadoo! was set up in 2006 on a very limited budget, and has grown into the thriving community it is today. Judd currently lives, works, and plays in Barcelona.