A Petition in Spain to Ban Credit Card Use in iGaming

A recent petition in Spain has asked the government to ban the use of credit cards in certain iGaming transactions. This proposed ban would disallow gamblers from adding additional funds to their iGaming accounts through their credit cards.

A brown American Express credit card stands on a table, and a small black padlock stands in front of it.

Regulators in Spain hope that by imposing a credit card ban on iGaming websites, they can protect gamers vulnerable to irresponsible spending. ©Ryan Born/Unsplash

A Trend of Gaming Regulation in Spain

Though 2020 has only just begun, legislators in Spain have already been busy setting new rules governing gambling in the country.

Just a few weeks ago, Spain’s two left-leaning parties, the Partido Socialista Obrero Español (or PSOE, the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party in English) and Unidos Podemos finalized a six-part set of regulations on national gaming. These rules closely follow many pre-existing laws governing the regulation of tobacco sales and advertising to minors, and were likely designed to target a massive surge in underage gambling — and underage gambling addiction — plaguing Spain’s youth last year.

2019 also saw massive protests across Spain — centered in Madrid, but with sympathetic protests all over the European nation — responding to the uptick in gambling, the threat it posed to underage citizens, and the seeming lack of government regulation on gambling overall. Many took issue not merely with iGaming, but also with the proximity of brick-and-mortar gaming institutions to local schools, which had lax policies verifying the age of their customers.

In addition to new laws set by the Partido Socialista Obrero Español and Unidos Podemos which establish that gaming establishments cannot be too close to local schools, the groups have decreed that such establishments must also post notices outside which tell their customers about the dangers of gaming. Other elements of the new regulations also establish a strict framework through which gaming will be advertised, which was previously unregulated.

What Does This New Proposed Regulation Mean?

The new possible ban on credit card use to refill one’s coffers while iGaming has been set forth by an independent consumer rights agency in Spain, FACUA-Consumidoresen Acción. This group has petitioned Spain’s Minister of Consumer Affairs, Alberto Garzon, in the hopes that this new rule can be lumped in with the government’s new regulations.

According to the petition written by FACUA-Consumidoresen Acción, the new regulations set forth by the Partido Socialista Obrero Español and Unidos Podemos offered a really promising step forward for Spain, one that looked out for the safety of customers who might be vulnerable to gaming addiction or irresponsible gaming behaviors.

A white woman holds up a credit card while sitting with a silver laptop on her lap.

Regulators in the UK have also just established strict rules regarding the use of credit cards in iGaming transactions in the hopes of protecting compulsive gamers from falling into debt. ©bruce mars/Pexels

FACUA-Consumidores en Acción went on to say that they believe this new addition to the law, one which made sure possible gamers could not use their credit cards to add to their gaming account purse, would protect avid gamers from falling into debt. In a statement, the consumer rights organization said,

“This measure would help to fight against gambling, a scourge that in recent years has continued to increase, especially in vulnerable groups such as youth and adolescents, as associations of rehabilitated players and studies in this field have confirmed.”

More Regulations to Come for Spain

Whether or not Spain’s Minister of Consumer Affairs, Alberto Garzon, chooses to listen to FACUA-Consumidoresen Acción, the coalition government which set forward the first set of gaming regulations on January 2, 2020 has publicly said that there will be more regulations forthcoming. According to this statement, the coalition government’s latest regulatory additions will concern such issues as advertising and further protections to gaming customers.

In fact, at the close of 2019, the joint regulatory body of Partido Socialista Obrera Español and Unidos Podemos published a 50-page document covering the policies which they hoped would be implemented in the European country.

A Move to Regulate Across Europe

The petition from FACUA-Consumidoresen Acción comes just one day after new regulations were established by the UK Gambling Commission. This new stringent law stipulates that gamers in the United Kingdom will not be authorized to use credit cards for most gambling purchases, once the law comes into effect on April 14, 2020.

Upon announcement of this new regulation, UK Gambling Commission chair Neil McArthur said, “Credit card gambling can lead to significant financial harm … Research shows that 22% of online gamblers using credit cards are problem gamblers.”

UK Culture Minister Helen Whately expanded upon this statement, expressing a sentiment many regulators in 2020 face over the conundrum of the iGaming industry: that preexisting government legislation concerning responsible gambling may not be adequately up to date for the current landscape of digital gaming.

As such, Whately and her colleagues responsible for the UK’s new credit card ban — as well as some of their other new stringent measures on gambling — see this as being far from the last new law they will set in place governing gambling.

Seeing the move from the UK to ban credit cards was inspiring to the FACUA-Consumidoresen Acción, and they expressed as much in a public statement, saying:

“The association asks the government to follow the example of the United Kingdom, which has just approved this measure of protection for the most vulnerable people, that aims to minimize risks to consumers by preventing them from accumulating debts due to gambling, making it the only country in our region that restricts the use of credit cards in this industry.”

Cautious Support from Europe’s Gaming and Betting Association

The European Gaming and Betting Association has also voiced their support for the new and potential regulations to come in Spain.

In their statement, they also emphasize the concern shared by many — that regulating official channels of iGaming may encourage players to find their fix elsewhere, turning to “unregulated, off-shore websites” which often pose even bigger risks to players, particularly those who struggle with addictive tendencies or irresponsible gaming behaviors.

What’s more, they point out, advertising offers gamers a crucial means of sifting regulated, official gaming outlets from more unsafe, unregulated ventures — if someone has seen an ad for a legal and regulated gaming outlet on TV, they are more likely to frequent that operation, instead of turning to their own devices and potentially putting themselves at risk.

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