The Spanish economy has lulled in the doldrums of recession for seven years now, but signalling that the tide is beginning to turn, recent figures reveal a return to growth for Spain’s gambling sectors.
Since the Spanish government passed legislation in 2013 to allow online gambling operators to include slots in their gaming platforms, operators and state treasurers have been waiting patiently for the revenues stream to fully kick in. However, data released by the Dirección General de Ordenación del Juego (DGOJ), and reported to a meeting of European gaming regulators in Brussels at the beginning of December shows that things are starting to change.
The state of the economy since 2008 – unemployment is still at 21 percent – has undoubtedly been the leading factor in the sluggish performance of gambling operators in the region. But this report reveals that 2014 saw the first year-on-year increase in gaming revenue since 2008, coming in at just over E24bn. However this figure is still only 75 percent of Spain’s precrash GGY of E32bn.
The importance of this contribution cannot be understated; gaming is revealed to have made up 2.5 percent of all gross domestic product in Spain, and employed 76,000 workers this year. While indirectly, gambling supported a further 155,000 in various industries such as hospitality that are built around the gaming sector.
Also revealed by the report was the number of online gaming consumers in Spain totalling 824,000, 87 percent of whom were men, and a similar proportion falling within the 18-45 demographic. The average spend per player was E243, a figure which rose significantly for the 46-55 bracket to E448. 18-25 year-olds represent considerably less with an average spend per player of only E64, perhaps reflecting the high level of youth unemployment. Sports betting was most popular with 60 percent placing online wagers; poker was second popular at 45 percent.
Since the new slot legislation came in two years ago a host of major operators have been granted the license to operate online slots: 888 Holdings, Bwin.party, William Hill, PokerStars, 888, bwin.party and Gamesys Spain.
Leading gaming technology supplier Playtech also entered the Spanish market recently, allowed to offer slots based games through their operators, also available in mobile format. A long string of casino games suppliers have also been approved to offer their games in the Spanish market for the first time; these include NetEnt, Eurobox, Gaming Solutions, Ekasa Apuetas, Rfranco Digital, Merkur Interactive Malta, Gala Coral subsidiary Eurobet International, Euroapuetas Online, Beatya Online Entertainment, SKS365 España and Plataforma de Apuestas Cruzadas.
Spain is widely considered to be leading market for legislative and regulatory reform, and its citizens are now reported to spend twice as much of their free time gambling as citizens in the UK.
While praise is certainly due, government is equally to blame for the speed at which these figures have materialised. Although the DGOJ introduced the legislation in 2013, it was not until this summer that it decided to issue online slot licenses. Already 29 slot licenses have been awarded, so it’s no wonder that revenues have finally started to kick in.
Youth unemployment, however, will continue to hold the sector back. Worldwide, the core clientele for online and mobile gaming – 25-34 year-olds – far outstrips other ages groups. Yet a huge proportion of this group in Spain is disenfranchised, as reflected in the figures, by a youth unemployment rate still hovering just below 50 percent.
The rate of future growth in Spain still largely depends on whether or not operators will be able to market their products on TV and through sports teams. However, the figures show that liberalising the sector should go some way to improving the country’s finances, not only by reducing debt, but also by boosting youth employment.