Spanish government limits betting ads, but shirt sponsorship to remain
By Simon Ward
The Spanish coalition government is planning new restrictions on betting advertising, but is stopping short of a blanket ban, and sports teams can continue to display the logos of companies from the sector on their shirts.
The left-wing government formed by the PSOE and Unidas Podemos parties in January has been planning a crackdown on the gambling industry amid concerns over addiction and exposure to young people.
The electoral programme of the PSOE included a proposed regulation “on the advertising of gambling and online gambling similar to that of tobacco products,” where a complete ban is in place. The UP went further, stating it was committed “to end online and in-person betting houses.”
However, the provisions of a Royal Decree of Commercial Communications for Gaming Activities unveiled today are less stringent than had previously been anticipated.
Television and radio advertising by gambling companies will be banned until 8pm, a measure that will impact on coverage of around 50 per cent of top-tier LaLiga soccer matches, while online betting advertising will only be permitted between 1am and 5am.
Sponsorship of clubs by bookmakers has not been banned, which will come as a relief to the 19 LaLiga teams (the exception being Real Sociedad) which have such deals in place, notably the eight that have branding on shirts. However, children’s replica kits will not be able to carry advertising for betting firms.
Such companies are also blocked from putting their name to stadiums or team names, while advertisers cannot use celebrities or well-known personalities or link betting with individual success.
The restrictions form part of measures presented on Friday by Alberto Garzón, the Spanish minister for consumer affairs, and he does not rule out further steps going forward.
However, the minister, a member of the UP party, claimed that a total ban on betting advertising, including sponsorship, such as that in place in Italy would have been counter-productive.
He said a complete ban “is not only inadequate, but even reckless.”
Garzón added: “If there are people [who want] the total ban on advertising, I am here to discuss it and explain that international experiences, such as that of Italy, have proved to be a failure; that the economic rationality of the measure is also wrong and that therefore the total ban on advertising is not only inappropriate, but also imprudent.”
He suggested that a ban would serve to benefit the black market, saying: “There are people who will bet, yes, and yes because they may have a problem.
“[But] If we generate incentives for companies to go to the illegal world because they no longer have advantages in the legal world, we are likely to be pushing people who need protection to an illegal world where there is no protection.”
Government data shows that online betting in Spain tripled between 2014 and 2018 to €17.8 billion ($19.3 billion), while it is estimated that annual total losses from sports betting, casinos and national lottery tickets amount to €10 billion per year.
Facua, the Spanish consumer rights body, is among those dissatisfied with the new government measures, describing the advertising of betting companies during soccer matches as a “serious irresponsibility.”
It added: “The connection of this sector to the world of football is one of the keys to its enormous growth in recent years.”
According to a survey conducted by Facua earlier this year, nearly nine out of 10 consumers support a total ban on advertising and sponsorship by casinos and bookmakers.
It is calling on Garzón to reconsider the steps taken because “beyond the commitment made by the political organisations that are part of the government, there is a social consensus on the need to ban the commercial messages of a sector that is causing enormous damage to a large number of families.”