In a landmark decision on April 10, 2024, Spain’s Supreme Court has partially upheld an appeal by the Spanish Digital Gaming Association (Jdigital) against the stringent advertising restrictions imposed by Royal Decree 958/2020. This ruling has significant implications for the online gambling industry, particularly concerning how operators can market their services.

Background of Royal Decree 958/2020

Introduced in November 2020, Royal Decree 958/2020 was aimed at curbing the exposure of gambling advertisements to minors in Spain. The decree included a broad set of restrictions, such as banning celebrity endorsements, limiting advertising hours on television and radio to between 1 am and 5 am, and prohibiting certain types of sponsorship deals.

The Appeal and Supreme Court Ruling

The initial response to the decree from the industry was one of resistance, culminating in an appeal led by Jdigital. The appeal was initially rejected by the Spanish Constitutional Court in November 2023. However, upon further review, the Supreme Court decided to annul several critical aspects of the decree.

Key points annulled by the Supreme Court include:

  • Article 13: Previously, this article restricted advertising targeting new customers, specifically those who had been account holders for less than 30 days. This restriction has now been lifted.
  • Article 15: This article banned celebrities from appearing in gambling advertisements. The annulment of this rule means celebrities can once again be featured in gambling promotions.
  • Article 23, Section 1 and Article 25, Section 3: These sections that prohibited advertisements on video sharing platforms like YouTube have been annulled.
  • Article 26, Sections 2 and 3: Restrictions on advertising via social media to users over the age of 18 have been lifted.

Continued Restrictions

Despite the annulments, certain restrictions remain in effect:

  • Article 12: This article, which was not annulled, continues to prohibit operators from advertising or using branding that can be viewed by minors. This includes restrictions on sponsoring sporting events or broadcasts and any sponsorship activities related to sports facilities.

Implications of the Ruling

The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn these restrictions is seen as a victory for Spanish gaming operators. It allows more flexibility in their marketing strategies, particularly in utilising popular figures and reaching new customers more effectively. However, the decision has also retained several safeguards aimed at protecting minors and promoting responsible gambling.

Industry and Legal Perspectives

The ruling has been met with surprise and approval from industry stakeholders. Patricia Lalanda, a partner at LOYRA Abogados and part of the team representing one of the plaintiffs, expressed surprise at the decision, highlighting its significance in shaping the future of gambling communication in Spain.

The Future of Gambling Advertising in Spain

The Supreme Court’s decision marks a pivotal moment for the Spanish gambling industry. It suggests a possible shift towards more balanced regulations that consider both the commercial interests of operators and the welfare of the public. As the landscape of digital gambling continues to evolve, further legislative and regulatory adjustments can be anticipated.

This ruling not only impacts the operational strategies of gambling companies but also sets a precedent for how gambling regulations might be structured in other jurisdictions facing similar challenges. As Spain navigates these changes, the global gambling industry will be watching closely, potentially influencing international regulatory approaches in the future.