Spanish gambling market is one of the largest segments of the regulated European gambling industry. Its structure consists of ground-based and online casinos, betting, lotteries, bingo.

Gambling business in Spain

Spain is a South-Western country of Europe with legislation which legalized gambling. Many countries of EU have shown a loyal attitude to gambling. But according to statistics, Spanish kingdom stands out for a special deference to such entertainment.

Residents and visitors of the country have a huge selection of all kinds of games, including video slots, cards, lotteries and sports betting. According to official data, the average amount of expenses of each citizen on gambling entertainment is about EUR 480 a year. Over 60% of the population uses the services of bookmakers. Not less than 30% of Spaniards are fans of poker.

The gambling in Spain is a constant source of replenishment of government budget. The legislation stipulates the taxation of the income of casinos and totalizator as well as their visitors, whose winnings exceed EUR 2.5 thousand.

Gambling in the Medieval period

History shows that people of Spain always had a predilection to gambling entertainment. One of the most common versions of the gambling industry development says that people of this country have become the creators of playing cards. In the first half of the XV century, they were made of copper and wood, decorated with engraving.

It is quite difficult to judge the reliability of this fact. But we can say with certainty, that specific gaming rooms operated in the Middle Ages on the Iberian Peninsula, offering visitors to participate in card games – entertainment imported by Arabs.

The first lottery carried out in Spain, Sorteo Extraordinario de Navidad (Christmas lottery), was organized in 1812. It is still in demand among the country’s population.

Gambling market in Spain developed prior to the start of the twentieth century. According to modern standards, it had a small scale. But the popularity exceeded the performance of most other entertainment.

The prohibition on gambling in Spain

The situation changed diametrically in the early twenties of XX century. With the coming to the power of General Miguel Primo de Rivera, the gambling of any format was prohibited. Signing the corresponding decree was the reason for the mass closure of casinos.

General Franco, the dictator who took the reins in 1936, maintained a similar position. Gambling was still considered an outlaw.

This situation prevailed until the Franco’s death in 1975. Juan Carlos de Bourbon became the official successor and the King of Spain. He was able to change the governance principles, forming a system of parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy in the country.

The idea of the revival of gambling presented in 1977, was actively supported by the majority of the population. A lengthy discussion resulted in the decision to provide a legal regulation of gambling and signing of the relevant Royal Decree.

The new Constitution came into force in December 1979. Provisions of the law that reinforced the legitimacy of the gambling entertainment and Portugal gambling regulation opened a new era in the development of gambling business in Spain.

The legalization of gambling in modern Spain

From that moment, the industry has actively expanded and improved. The first license was received by 18 operators that established casinos in suburbs and resort areas at the beginning of the 80s. The main goal of this decision was attracting tourists.

Initially, the activities of gambling venues operating in 17 autonomous regions and two cities in Spain were regulated by the provisions of national law on gambling. But after a short time, each region adapted the document to its own conditions.

The entry to the EU took place in 1985. The entry of Spain to the European Community had a positive impact on economic development and, consequently, lead to an increase in gambling.

The next changes in the law were made in 2011. New regulations, which came into force in mid-2012, allowed achieving compliance of gambling development conditions with current EU rules. Gambling became the major source of state revenue. The gambling industry brings about 3% of GDP profits.

Gambling market in Spain today

Today, about 60% of the gambling industry is occupied by casinos, around 40% belong to public lotteries and sports. In general, the country’s gambling business structure comprises six sectors:

  • Land-based casinos – the most significant and extensive market segment. Spain has organized the work of 48 legal gambling venues operating in 34 cities across the country.
  • Slot machines placed outside official casinos. This sector occupies more than 35% market share. Companies LAE and ONCE are the main suppliers of the equipment involved in the implementation, installation, and maintenance of the devices.
  • Online Entertainment. This area is characterised by the rapid development and the annual increase of the turnover from gambling in Madrid, Spain.
  • Lottery. This part of in the Spain market is one of the largest in the world and is characterised by the highest level of expenditure per inhabitant in comparison with other states. In this segment, there is a constant growth trend.
  • Totalisator. The turnover of this direction seems insignificant in comparison with the level of development in other EU countries.
  • Bingo. It is the less profitable segment of the gambling industry.

The centre of gambling life in Spain – the casino in the capital

Most of the gambling venues are traditionally concentrated in Madrid. Here, 5 land-based casinos work. Three of them have a reputation of being one of the biggest and the most beautiful casinos not only in Spain but also in Europe:

  • Casino de Madrid – the oldest casino in the state. Located in a 5-storey building with a rooftop terrace, it was opened in 1836 as a club for wealthy people. The casino still maintains the luxury interior of the Belle Epoch. The essential elements of the interior include the original paintings and sculptures of famous masters. The planning involves 12 large rooms equipped with various types of gambling devices. The infrastructure includes several restaurants, a swimming pool, sports club and even a reading room.
  • Gran Madrid – the establishment, which has won the status of the largest casino in Spain. Opened in 1981, this game centre is located 29 km from Madrid. The total area of the casino is over 8 thousand square meters. The design is made in a vintage style of the 50s of the 20th century. This casino can be visited only as an excursion visit.
  • Gran Casino Aranjuez – located 47 km from Madrid in the town of Aranjuez. The casino is equipped with 50 tables and 150 slot machines. Gran Casino Aranjuez is known for its ability to offer not only a good range of casino entertainment but also an interesting cultural program: flamenco shows, themed nights Show & Dinner, mini-concerts with live music, the performance “The Origin of Gran Casino Aranjuez”, which is dedicated to the thousand-year history of Thai martial art.

The Casino Gran Madrid Colon and Gran Via stand out for their convenience location. They are located in the central area of Madrid available to visit 7 days a week, almost around the clock.

Casinos of other provinces of Spain

The next place regarding in the number of gambling venues in the city belongs to Malaga and Murcia and are under gambling regulation in Spain. In each of them, 3 casinos have visitors:

  • Casino Torrequebrada in the resort of Benalmadena;
  • Casino Marbella at the hotel Andalucia Plaza Puerto Banus in Marbella suburb;
  • Admiral San Roque – one of the largest gambling venues located directly in Malaga;
  • Real Casino de Murcia – the oldest Casino of Murcia; the building is listed among the monuments of architecture;
  • Gran Casino Murcia – the institution, that works on the territory of the hotel NH Rincón de Pepe; the casino offers the possibility of acquiring junket-tours;
  • Costa Calida – a small club offering mostly entertainment in board games. There are just 11 tables and 20 slot machines.

Alicante, Valladolid, Valencia are the cities where two casinos operate. The similar numbers of casinos belong to a centre of the island provinces of Las Palmas and Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Barcelona Casino has the reputation of one of the most prestigious clubs. Visiting gambling venues is available to guests and residents of Arona, Benidorm, Catalonia, Leon, Palma de Mallorca, Ibiza, Menorca and other continental and island cities.

Basic entertainment, visiting conditions

All licensed casinos in Spain offer at least a standard range of gambling. Several types of roulette, baccarat, blackjack, punto, various types of poker, including a video version, many slot machines – these are the required entertainment of such institutions.

The conditions for visiting the casino are the dress code and the achievement of a gambling age in Spain – 18 years old according to the legislative provisions of the state. Most of the institutions operate seven days a week, 20 hours a day. The exact schedule is presented on pages of official sites.

Gambling rooms outside casinos

The creation of small gambling rooms is a separate area of the gambling industry in Spain. These places can be found in cities of the country in many places. Their audience is represented almost by pensioners. The main feature is a loyal pricing policy. The betting limit ranges from a few cents to EUR 2. The maximum size of a prize is EUR 500.

The electronic roulette is an exception. Here, the cost of using the device can reach EUR 50, the size of payments – up to several thousand, respectively.


The poker is a special segment of the Spanish gambling industry, operators of which also pay gambling tax in Spain. Poker rooms and poker clubs are present in almost all major cities and resorts of the country.

Spain regularly organises professional tournaments:

  • European Poker Tour – prestigious card competitions of European level. One of the stages of this event is held annually in the elite Casino Barcelona. The cost of the buy-in (the entrance ticket to the game) is up to several hundred EUR. It should be noted, that Barcelona was the place for the first round of the competition in 2004 and for the one hundredth anniversary tournament. Other elite competitions often are carried out in the capital of Catalonia.
  • World Poker Tour – World poker tournament with the participation of professional players. It was first organised in 2002. The meetings take place in different cities of the USA and European countries, including Spain. In 2016, the competition Series Main Event took place alternately in three casinos: Casino Barcelona, Gran Casino Madrid and Solverde Casino Espinho.
  • Estrellas Poker Tour – Poker competition of Spain. Its rounds take place alternately in Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia and Marbella.
  • Mega Poker Series Madrid, Super Stack Valencia, CNP Malaga – Local Poker series of Madrid, Valencia, Malaga, respectively.

Spanish poker players

Today, many professional poker players are Hispanic. Members of the prestigious team Poker Star has gained a wide popularity:

  • Juan Manuel Pastor is a successful player who came from the media industry to the gambling industry.
  • Leo Margets has won the authority of one of the most skilled women playing poker professionally.
  • Rafael Nadal – world-famous tennis player, “the face of the brand”, who collaborated with Poker Star for three years. You can hardly call him a professional, but he gained considerable experience and became a member of several non-standard activities: charitable duel against Ronaldo, heads-up match with Vanessa Selbst during EPT 2014.

Andoni Larrabe and Adrian Mateo Diaz who became the finalists of the prestigious WSOP Main Event rounds achieved a high level.

Fernando Pons enjoys the reputation of one of the best amateur players in the international arena. Taking part in WSOP events in Las Vegas, the worker from Mallorca managed to enter into the “November Nine 2016”. Today, he is predicted to be the second Chris Moneymaker.

But many professional poker players prefer to play and live abroad. Spain stands out an exceptional level of taxation in comparison with EU countries.

The regulation of online gambling in Spain

Spain finally confirmed the status of a large European country with a self-sufficient online gambling market in Spain in 2014 by forming a government agency responsible for the regulation of activities in gambling industry – the Gambling Commission of Spain (Commission Nacional del Juego). Established under the Ministry of Finance, the agency is subordinate to the State Treasury of Spain. Despite the “youth”, the Commission Nacional del Juego is the main regulator of the gambling industry of the state.

The basic functions of the department are:

  • Development of provisions for the regulation of gambling, the formation of requirements to their functional and technical specifications;
  • Consideration of applications for the issue of admission to the implementation of activities in the gambling business;
  • Issuance of licenses for providing services related to gambling: organisation, carrying out of lotteries, sports betting, casino establishment, other;
  • Monitoring the quality of institutions and controlling over the compliance of their activities with the legal provisions. In the case of failure, the Commission has the right to impose penalties up to the withdrawal of authorization documents.

Today, Spain provides three types of licenses:

  • The main, valid for 10 years;
  • A single, giving the right to operate in the gambling business for 1-5 years.
  • Short-term temporary permits.

There are no limits on the number of licenses issued. An obligatory condition is the registration of gambling sites on the local domain .es. The list of operators operating under the license of the Commission is presented on the official online resource of the department.

Protecting the interests of gaming companies, business development and the provision of equal and transparent conditions for maintaining a competitive environment – these are the tasks entrusted to the Spanish Casinos Association. The structure of the organisation, founded in 1978, now includes 32 gambling venues. The association is a member of the European Casino Association (ECA).

Operators of gambling business in Spain

Speaking directly about service providers in the state, the corporation Grupo Pro can be distinguished as a leader, which united three independent companies. It manages 9 casinos operating in various cities of the country. You can find more about this theme using gambling in Spain wiki.

The second largest operator Cirsa is the owner of 4 casinos in Andalusia, Asturias, Galicia and Valencia. Furthermore, the company has 11 casinos abroad.

The organisation Grupo Orenes is believed to be a significant market participant. It owns 6 gambling venues, 4 of which operate in Spain. Along with those, the corporation is specialised in the creation of gaming rooms and bingo.

Companies Casinos De Catalunya, Grupo Gran Madrid, Casinos Nervion enjoy the reputation of large operators.

Thematic conferences in Spain

Spain is actively involved in the development of the European gambling market. There are often thematic conferences and forums, gathering a huge number of visitors.

The most significant event of this size is a specialised annual exhibition FER Interazar. Its main audience is producers, distributors of gambling equipment. The participation in the exhibition allows presenting new slot machines, advanced software, showing equipment and security systems for land-based casinos. The event takes place in the middle of March during 3 days. The average attendance is more than 15 thousand people.

Holding of the World Executive Summit Gaming (WGES) in Barcelona was a highlight of 2016 for Spain. The event of this format brings together leading representatives of the international market. The conference was attended by such companies and organisations as the European Casino Association (ECA), Ladbrokes, Playtech, Betsson, Kambi, Olympic Entertainment Group, other operators and regulators of the gambling market.

Local level events are represented by the local forums of Andalusia Gaming Conference (Conference on Gambling Andalusia) format.

Prospects of the gambling business development in Spain

Current financial results allow predicting the further development of the industry of in Spain. According to data reported for the first 6 months of 2016, published by the Dirección General de Ordenación del Juego, the annual growth rate of the gross income of gambling was 56% – EUR 99 million.

The increase in profit from online gambling is equivalent to 91%. The rapid development of this segment is explained by the implementation of slots and live roulette. The latter, in particular, raised the level of profitability by 48%.

There is an increase of profits from sports betting – 70%. However, this segment is characterised by low margins – 4.5-5%.

One of the most anticipated events is the opening of the largest gambling venue Las Vegas Sand. It is predicted that the project will have the glory of Vegas.

According to plans, it will include 12 entertainment complexes. In addition to the casino, the infrastructure will involve an individual slot zone, equipped with 18 thousand slot machines for online gambling in Spain with a regulatory update, hotel rooms, restaurants, conference rooms, theatres and other facilities. The future institution is designed for simultaneous reception of up to 36 thousand visitors. The project is claimed to be launched in 2022.

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