Welcome to the very first Gaming in Spain monthly newsletter. Our goal is to keep you updated on the latest developments in the Spanish gaming sector, with a particular focus on the rapidly maturing online market.
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Reduction in remote gaming duty brings new opportunities, experts say
In late June, the Spanish parliament adopted the government’s budget bill for 2018, which came into force on July 1. One of the bill’s provisions was the reduction of the most common remote gaming tax rate from 25% to 20% of GGR.
The rates for pool betting, exchange betting, raffles, and contests, which were calculated on different bases, are now harmonized with the main gaming duty of 20% of GGR. The tax rate for state-organized sports pool betting will remain at 22% of the total amount wagered.
For businesses “fiscally and factually based” in the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, the main remote gaming duty of 20% will be slashed by a further 50% to a mere 10% of GGR.
The bill explicitly stated that the change in gaming duty was made to convince unlicensed operators to “carry out their activities in the legal market.”
At present, over 30% of online casino wagers are being made with operators that are not licensed to operate in the Spanish market. From a player channelization perspective, the situation is even less favorable in the bingo vertical: almost 50% all Spanish online bingo revenue is currently being generated by unlicensed operators, figures compiled by H2 Gambling Capital show.
Unsurprisingly, industry insiders reacted favorably to the gaming tax rate reduction.
For instance, Owen Tustin, VP Gaming, Relationship Management at emerchantpay, believes that firms facing increased taxation or regulatory pressure should consider expanding into new international markets, including Spain:
“Operators looking to target a new market with huge potential for growth could do a lot worse than consider Spain. […] Recent figures showed 14.5% year-on-year growth in sports betting, and a staggering 51% increase in casino and 42% growth in poker. The launch of a shared liquidity network with France will surely see the poker vertical grow further still.”
Regulus Partners, a London-based consultancy firm focused on international gambling, considers the tax rate reduction a rare opportunity that is not to be squandered:
“The change will save operators c. €30m pa, which is not insignificant in a small crowded market dominated by a few large operators. If this windfall is recycled into better product, high-return marketing, innovation and harm minimisation then both the market and the government’s tax yield will sustainably grow – giving the remote sector a much-needed positive model to point to. If on the other hand the tax cut is split between more aggressive advertising and higher offshore profit margins, then the government is likely to revisit both the rate and the regulatory framework. The Spanish government has given its remote gambling sector a clear short-term positive; it is up to the sector to learn lessons from elsewhere and turn it into a long-term success story.”
The Spanish online market – a brief overview
Currently, 42 licensed operators are active in the Spanish online market, 40 of which offer casino games, 28 offer sports betting, and 8 offer poker.
GGR was €163m in Q1 2018, up 34% compared to the same period in the previous year.
Despite this impressive growth rate, further gains are expected, as the Spanish gambling market has not yet made good its losses suffered in the wake of the recent financial crisis. At present, combined online and land-based revenues are still 24% lower than ten years ago, according to Alejandro Landaluce, director of Cejuego.
The Spanish online sector appears to be particularly well-positioned to take advantage of the remaining market slack. Total e-commerce turnover in Spain increased by an impressive 28.1% year-on-year in Q4 2017, with gaming and betting taking up the top spot in number of transactions.
Spanish government considering revision of online sports betting regulation
Earlier this month, Minister of Culture and Sports José Guirao said that the government is considering a revision of online sports betting regulation.
The strong growth, in recent years, of online betting has increased concerns over problem gambling. Additionally, competition from online operators is seen as a major contributory factor in the decline of the performance of state-owned betting pools (quinelas), causing shortfalls in the funding of Spanish sports.
Spanish sports federation ADESP, through its president José Hidalgo, is therefore proposing that licensed betting online operators should help fund Spanish sports, for instance through a 1% duty on online betting turnover.
Spanish State Lotteries (SELAE) to “progressively abandon” paper tickets
President of the Sociedad Estatal Loterías y Apuestas del Estado (SELAE) Inmaculada García Martínez revealed that the state-owned operator intends to progressively abandon the sale of paper lottery tickets in favor of online play.
SELAE’s new app “LoteríasPRO,” based on a “mixture of tradition and innovation,” is an important step in that direction, said García Martínez
“This app represents the next step in the natural evolution of the way we interact with our customers; and offers added value by allowing them to participate in the draw from their mobile phones.”
Canadian investment group now looking to Andalusia to build “Eurovegas”
The Canadian investment group TripleFive has abandoned plans to build a gaming and leisure complex in the Extremadura and is now eyeing locations in the vicinity of Malaga and Cádiz instead.
“The business has to be profitable, something that is not possible in Castilblanco. It was not the right place,” said Paul Watson, head of TripleFive Europe, adding that he was hoping to invest as much as €3.4bn in the project.
Spanish regulator DGOJ is expected to finalize its draft legislation concerning gambling advertising later this year.
Internal squabbling at gaming operator Codere resulted in it pulling funding for its non-profit Codere Foundation.
Trade association JDigital condemned the looming ban on sports betting advertising in Italy.
Yggdrasil Gaming’s content and platform have been certified to launch in Spain.
Winamax has become the third operator to launch a combined French-Spanish online poker network.
Marathonbet signed a multi-year contract to become the new main sponsor of La Liga side Girona FC.
888poker has announced the signing of Spanish-born Ana Marquez to help grow the operator’s segregated online poker room in Spain.
Wanabet has added Draw Poker to its online game offering.
Barcelona footballer Gerard Piqué has closed down his social video game business that operated under the name Kerad Games.