Forty-three percent of Spain’s online gamblers and poker players play on illegal sites, and many care little about their country’s regulatory efforts. Those are the findings of Â a new research study conducted by the country’s CODERE Foundation and the Institute of Policy and Governance of the Charles III University in Madrid, entitled “Social Perception on Gambling in Spain in 2014.”
It’s bad news for the Spanish regulatory authority (DGOJ) and largely explains the poor state of the Spanish online poker market. The country chose to regulate online gambling for the first time in 2011. Online poker was ring-fenced, isolating the Spanish player pool in the new .es poker rooms from the rest of Europe, in imitation of the French regulatory framework which had been established a year earlier.
Regulators believed that localized marketing campaigns and the ease of domestic payment transfers would encourage new recreational players, but it seems the opposite has been true. Both Spain and France taxed their operators at a very high rate, and sites, in turn, increased rake or curtailed promotions, making it difficult to compete with the lucrative and tax-free illegal market.
Furthermore, an isolated player pool meant fewer ring-games and tournaments with smaller prize pools. A similar study in France earlier this year found that 47 percent of professional online poker players in France admitted that they had accounts at illegal offshore online poker sites because they offered better games.
“One of the most significant data [sic] of our research is undoubtedly the one about players active on non-regulated sites,” CODERE said. “Forty-three percent of online players admitted doing so on websites that are not regulated by the Directorate General for the Regulation of Gambling (DGOJ), and approximately 12.8 percent declared to never use a dot-es website for their games. Which means that they play exclusively on illegal sites.”
Just as worrying for the DGOJ is that Spanish players seem to care little about whether they play in the regulated market or not. The study found that 27.4 percent of respondents said they had no idea about the real location of their chosen online casinos and poker rooms, while 43.8 percent explained that they believed the companies “may be located in Spain.”
The study also sought to determine how the Spanish financial crisis had affected the market.
“Spain is still home to a very large community of online gamblers,” the report says. “However, the financial crisis led people to play less often than before and to invest the money [less] on [online] games.” Leisure spending on online gambling reduced from 9.4 percent to 7.7 percent between 2012 and 2013, said CODERE.
The number of active online gamblers in Spain also dropped, by 1.1 percent to approximately 1,150,000 from 2012 to 2013, the study found.
“The results of the research indicate that online gaming seems to have reached a degree of maturity,” concluded CODERE.