While sharing the Iberian Peninsula with the Portuguese Republic, the Kingdom of Spain is distinctively well-known for its 17 sovereign regions (which each feature sundry cultures and lands) and two sovereign cities (Melilla and Ceuta).
Other reasons visitors in the tens of thousands visit the country include the Sagrada Família church, the Royal Palace, the capital and largest municipality of Madrid, the everlasting love the Spanish have for football, the numerous Antoni Gaudí’s landmarks characterised by modernism and volatility, the culinary community of Basque Country (Euskadi), the Gothic Quarter, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, the Tramuntana mountains, the bronzed archipelago of Balearic Islands (especially Mallorca or Majorca), the volcanic Mount Teide on Tenerife, the fascinating Alcázar of Seville medieval royal residence, the Prado museum with the best of European artworks, the Mezquita (Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba), and a Roman aqueduct that is still operational today. Particularly, the Spanish gambling industry is more than worthwhile.
Actually, the first appearance of gambling within the length and breadth of Spain is unknown. However, gambling must have existed in the country for centuries considering the Iberian Peninsula inhabitants arrived tens of thousands of years ago. Also, Spain (alongside Portugal) was the global superpower during the 16th century and colonized more than 20 countries during its reign. With such significance, one could deduce gambling to have existed during those periods.
For what is known, the oldest Spanish casino started off as a club in 1838 and was patronized by wealthy individuals. Today, the club is known as Casino de Madrid and is one of the most visited casinos throughout Spain.
Similarly, lotteries have existed in the country since the 19th century. As with other European authorities, the State government controlled the lotteries with strict legislation and mainly monopolized them to generate funds for diverse reasons. Most reasons were charity-related while the State government also upped its finances with the help of lotteries.
The first national lottery, Sorteo Extraordinario de Navidad (the Extraordinary Christmas Lottery), was established by the Spanish Public Administration in 1821. The lottery is widely called El Gordo (the Big One), which is the name given to its jackpot winner.
Right from the start, the native Spaniards across the regions were known to gamble more than usual. Most used a greater percentage of their income to buy lottery tickets at the time. However, games of skill were later legalized in 1977 following a published document by Gobierno de España (the Government of Spain). In 1981, games of chance were legalized as well.
Prior to 1977, games of skill and chance were strictly criminalized and punishable under the law. As soon as games of skill and chance were decriminalized, gambling grew exponentially in a short of time. At the time, the most popular form of gambling in Spain today, sports betting, grew in nationwide popularity. However, the decriminalization document did not give a proper regulation policy so gambling in Spain was in disorder and gambling operators operated with little to no restrictions.
In 2008, there was the financial crisis of 2007-2008 throughout the world. The crisis affected Spain and so the authorities needed to bounce back; gambling seemed like a way to generate more revenues. So, the creation of a legislation for regulated gambling became a debate at all levels of government.
Fast forward to May 28, 2011, Gobierno de España, as published in Boletín Oficial del Estado (the Official State Gazette), declared an appropriate legislation of gambling. The legislation, titled Ley 13/2011, de 27 de Mayo, de regulación del Juego Law 13/2011, of May 27, regulating the Game, popularly called the Spanish Gaming Act) – came into force on May 29, 2011.
The Act further rebranded the National Gaming Commission (which was established in the 1980s) as Dirección General de Ordenación del Juego (Directorate General for the Regulation of Gambling, shortened as DGOJ) under El Ministerio de Hacienda y Administraciones Públicas (the Ministry of Finance and Administrative Functions) and assigned Secretaria de Estado de Hacienda (the State Secretary of the Treasury) responsible for its operations.
The Directorate oversees all activities and facilities of gambling at the State level. The regulatory body issues licenses regulate games and are also the jurisdiction pertaining decisions on gambling affairs and the force pertaining enforcement of gambling laws. Nevertheless, each region has the right to set up bodies to replace the duties of the Directorate in that particular region. Regional regulatory bodies are mainly under the departments of interior or finance of the regions. Generally, both Directorate and regional regulatory bodies are vested with the power to set a limit or restriction. Yet, there are no limits or restrictions throughout the whole regions of the country.
Furthermore, the Act was initially aimed at combating fraud and illegal gambling, fortifying public order, preventing gambling addiction and other gambling problems, securing the three classifications of individuals who are not allowed in Spanish casinos (underage individuals, individuals who intentionally limited their access, and individuals disabled according to the law or declared by a court), and preventing the rights of players.
Later, the aim of the Act shifted to regulating online gambling, though its initial objectives were still included. This form of gambling exceeds the authority of regional regulatory bodies. So, online gambling operations in any region are subjected to the Directorate but with an exception: regional regulatory can issue the license for gambling operators whether land-based or online as long as the operator operates within the region.
This means online gambling operators licensed by the Directorate can offer their services in all regions of Spain while those licensed by a regional regulatory body can only offer their services within that region – and the same policy applies for land-based operators.
In addition to online gambling regulations, general regulations needed a hand as the previous regulation policy was ineffective and outdated for players, operators, and even regulatory bodies. For one, cross-border gambling was unavailingly regulated as unlicensed and unregulated operators offered their services to Spanish players without any prohibition or prosecution; this was possible because the 1977 decriminalization law did not regard offshore gambling operators though operators within the country were lightly prohibited.
The Act made it mandatory for ISPs (Internet Service Providers) to block gambling websites that are not licensed in Spain. In fact, the Directorate once ordered more than ten unlicensed websites to stop offering their services to Spanish residents, else a €50 million fine per website.
Prior to the Act, Ley 56/2007, de 28 de Diciembre, de Medidas de Impulso de la Sociedad de la Información (Law 56/2007, of December 28, on Measures to Promote the Information Society) laid the foundation for appropriate gambling regulations in Spain. The Law was enacted by the Cortes Generales (the Senate and the Congress of Deputies) in 2007 and pressured Gobierno de España to review and revise the regulations of online gambling by setting certain postulates to help the creation of an adequate gambling act.
The postulates were targeted to come into effect in 2008 but that happened in late-2010 as a special board to outline the rules on how a legitimately controlled interactive gambling segment ought to work was established.
The effect was greatly enforced by the Loterías y Apuestas del Estado or LAE (Lotteries and Bets of the State), which was not governed by any regulatory body at the time. Nonetheless, the very first step to regulate online gambling was reportedly taken by Gobierno de España in 2002.
Seeing LAE’s interest in a new and improved act, the very first draft of the Gambling Act was introduced in 2010. It was not until February 2011 when the sixth draft transformed into the Gaming Bill and was published in the Official Congress of Deputies Gazette. Two months later, the Congress of Deputies authorized it and passed it to the Senate. The Senate added a number of revisions the succeeding month and enacted it later that month.
Gobierno de España introduced a new law some months after the Act was enacted. This law was believed to come into effect in the Q1 of 2012 but could not until 2014.
According to the 2010 Act, a gambling activity has three characteristics: chance, wagering, and prize in form of cash or any other redeemable prize. Interestingly, land-based and online gambling are singly defined in the Act.
Pertaining lotteries, the LAE and Organización Nacional de Ciegos Españoles or ONCE (National Organisation of Spanish Blind People) are the two State monopolies permitted to organize lottery games and both are charity entities. Today, the LAE operates the Extraordinary Christmas Lottery, which is the second longest running lottery and the biggest lottery on the planet.
In addition to lotteries, the legal forms of gambling in Spain are casino games (poker, roulette, blackjack, baccarat, and complimentary games), slot and other gaming machines, bingo, sports betting (fixed-odds and pools), horse racing (fixed-odds and pools), pari-mutuel or exchange betting, and another fixed-odds betting. However, regions define their own legal forms of gambling so they generally add more to the aforementioned forms.
Casino gambling and all other major forms of gambling are impeccably legal in Spain. They are properly licensed, regulated, monitored, audited, and generally governed by the State and regional regulatory bodies. All major forms of gambling are very popular in Spain but nothing can compare with sports betting.
Further, Spanish casinos are premium, attractive, tourist-friendly, and energetic in general. There is 60 spread throughout the 17 regions and two cities. There is a large variety of games and all casinos are nothing identical to each other, so diversity is guaranteed.
The Kingdom of Spain is an authoritative country with many attractive attractions. As a result, tourism is only behind two sectors as the most crucial economic contributor in Spain. As tens of millions of visitors from other authoritative European countries and other countries around the world tour the country per year, Spain is only behind France and the United States as the most visited country in the whole world according to a 2016 report by UNWTO.
Accordingly, millions of players visit Spain for a refreshing gambling experience and that is exactly what Spain has to offer. Casinos are numerous and are some of the best in Europe and the world. The official currency is Euro while Spanish alongside regional languages Basque, Catalan, Occitan, and Galician are the official languages.
The 60 casinos in Spain are spread throughout over 35 cities. While most cities feature a single casino, Alicante, Barcelona, Madrid, Murcia, Málaga, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Valencia, Las Palmas, Girona, Granada, Logrono, Palma, Puerto Banus, Salamanca, Seville, and Zaragoza feature more than a casino each. The true gambling cities of Spain are Murcia, Madrid, and Barcelona as they individually have the best casinos in Spain.
The largest casino in the country is Gran Casino de Barcelona, which offers 219 gaming machines and 53 table games. Barcelona’s rival in everything, Madrid, comes in second with Casino Gran Madrid Torrelodones. The casino offers about 200 gaming machines, 34 table games, and 25 tables for poker games in its over-9,000 square feet gaming space.
There are more than just casinos in Spain. Although casinos are the most preferred establishments to enjoy casino games, there are gambling rooms in Spain, which are similar to (but smaller than) casinos. Their maximum wagering amount is €2 while the maximum prize is €500. Casino-like cruise ships are also available in this part of the Iberian Peninsula.
There are various casino games available; the most popular games are American Roulette, French Roulette, Blackjack, Boule, Baccarat, Trente et Quarante, Punto y Banca, Craps, Video Poker, Chemin de Fer, Poker Sin Descarte (or Synthetic Poker, a Spanish poker game similar to Omaha Poker), I-Table Ultimate Texas Hold’em, Electronic Roulette, Slot Machines, I-Roulette, I-Table Blackjack, Semielectronic Roulette, Texas Hold’em Poker, and Wheel of Fortune.
Poker is popular in Spain as the country has hosted a number of international poker tournaments: The World Cup of Poker (WCP), the World Heads-Up Poker Championship (WHUPC), and the European Poker Tour (EPT). (Ironically, the three are no more in existence but the EPT has been announced to come back in March 2018 sponsored by PokerStars.) Similarly, bingo is as popular as poker and most casinos offer it.
Slot machines, as an activity, is the most popular form of casino gambling in Spain. There are more than 250,000 popular and unpopular diverse slot machines across the country. About casinos, they are usually luxe and situated near a tourist-friendly hotel or resort (though a handful actually includes a hotel or resort).
Horse and greyhound racing are also popular in Spain. There are seven racetracks where both fixed-odds and pari-mutuel betting takes place. Bets are also conducted in the many sportsbooks within the country and are available online. Sports betting in Spain is mainly on football (which is a nationwide craze), Jai alai (native to the Basque Country, located across Spain, France, and the Bay of Biscay), basketball, Formula One, golf, cycling, tennis, and skiing.
The lottery is huge in Spain with just two operators. The ONCE and LAE operate a number of lottery games namely Rasca y Gana (scratch cards), Lotto, etc. ONCE provides daily draws while LAE draws hold once a year. As millions of tickets are sold each year, there are numerous offices, commissioned street vendors, and kiosks operated by individuals who are visually impaired within the country in which lottery games are provided.
Lastly, online gambling is adequately regulated and licensed in Spain. Tons of big online gambling operators (such as 888casino, PokerStars, William Hill, and bet365) are licensed to offer their services to Spanish residents and the residents themselves love to gamble online. From sports betting, lotteries, and casino games to bingo, horse racing betting, and slots, all forms of legal gambling are available on over 150 gambling websites.
Below is a list of all casinos currently operating in the regions of Spain.
Admiral Casino San Roque
Casino Bahia de Cadiz
Casino Castell de Peralada
Casino Castilla Leon
Casino Cirsa Valencia (Casino Monte Picayo)
Casino Conde Luna León
Casino Costa Calida
Casino de Asturias
Casino de Gijón and the Oviedo Room (Casino de Asturias)
Casino de Ibiza
Casino de la Toja
Casino de Lanzarote
Casino de Lloret
Casino de Madrid
Casino de Santa Cruz & Hotel Mencey
Casino de Taoro
Casino del Tormes
Casino Gran Canaria & Hotel Melia Tamarindos
Casino Gran Madrid Colón
Casino Gran Madrid Torrelodones
Casino Gran Via
Casino Mediterráneo Alicante (Casino del Mediterráneo)
Casino Mediterráneo Benidorm
Casino Mediterráneo Orihuela – Costa
Casino Monte Picayo Hotel
Casino Nuevo San Roque
Casino Playa de las Americas & H10 Gran Tinerfe Hotel
Casino Puerto de la Cruz
Casino Royal 777
Casino Torrequebrada and Hotel
Electra Rioja Gran Casino
Gran Casino Aljarafe – Spain
Gran Casino Antigua Fuerteventura
Gran Casino Castellon
Gran Casino Costa Brava
Gran Casino Costa Meloneras
Gran Casino de Barcelona
Gran Casino de Lanzarote
Gran Casino de Melilla
Gran Casino Las Palmas & Hotel Santa Catalina
Gran Casino Melilla
Gran Casino Murcia
Gran Casino Nervion
Gran Casino Sardinero
Gran Hotel Casino Extremadura
La Manga Club Resort
Luckia Casino de Bilboa
Luckia Casino de Ceuta
Luckia Casino de Mallorca
Málaga Juega at Hotel Málaga Nostrum
Nuevo Gran Casino del Kursaal de San Sebastian
Royal Caribbean International – Vision of the Seas
– According to Article 7 of Law 10/2010 (the Spanish Anti-Money Laundering Act, approved by Royal Decree 304/2014, of 5th May), land-based casinos are required to verify the identity, residence, and age of players before entering the facility. (The minimum gambling age in Spain is 18 years.) In addition, casino employees must perpetually verify the identity of any player who a) buys chips worth £2,000 or more at once or in total b) request a check of his winning, requests to transfer funds, or requests a certificate of his winning. The dress code varies evidently per casino.
– In fact, the Spanish Anti-Money Laundering Act made online slots and pair-mutuel (or exchange) betting legal. The Act also discussed copyrights in gambling and thereby preventing the personal data of Spanish players.
– There is a restriction on regional online gambling that makes only tax residents of the region eligible to gamble on gambling websites licensed in the region.
– To operate a casino in Spain, aspiring operators must obtain a license for each game as there is no casino license. (For instance, with just poker license, the casino cannot offer other casino games.)
– General licenses are valid for a decade and can be renewed for the same timeframe. The validity period of single licenses is one to five years and similar for renewals. For an application, there are four fees: £10,000 per license, £2,500 per Gaming Registry entry of a license, £38,000 one-time fee for a certification regardless of the number of licenses applied for, and 0.075 percent annual fee based on the prior year’s revenues.
– Complementary or social games are quite popular in Spain. The maximum wagering amount is £1 while the maximum prize is £40.
– Land-based gambling activities are taxed according to regional tax collectors. Tax rates generally range from 10 to 45 percent and are based on the tax base (turnover or gross income) and GGR (gross gaming revenue). Tax rates of online gambling activities range from seven to 25 percent (mostly the latter) and are also based on the tax base and GGR.
– The website of Aecj Asociación Española de Casinos de Juego (the Spanish Association of Casinos and Gambling) presently lists 30+ casinos while the actual figure is nothing less than 60.
– In regards to advertising, regions define their respective policies. Meanwhile, advertising without permission is a criminal offence punishable under the law for land-based operators. Fines could be anything from £100,00 to £1 million and the authorities could temporarily ban such operator for at least six months. The same fine and ban policy go for online operators. However, online operators that are licensed by the Directorate or a regional regulatory body are permitted to advertise, market or conduct any sponsorship activity. Also, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), advertising agencies, gambling operators, and media institutions have registered with an autonomous Code of Conduct established by the Directorate so as to uniformly create a framework for regulated advertisements of online gambling services.
– Since 2012, Spanish players have been spending about €1.9 billion on gambling per year. This is equal to 15 percent of the income per household or almost €500 per person…and these figures grow year in, year out. Currently, an estimated figure of 30 percent of Spanish residents gambles frequently. Respectively from 2014 to 2016, the Spanish gambling industry generated revenues of €327 million, €368 million, and €409 million.
– The Extraordinary Christmas Lottery sells nothing less than €1.7 billion worth of tickets annually and about 70 percent is reportedly given back as cash prizes while the remaining 30 percent is used for charities and to fund the Catholic Church. The draw holds annually on exactly December 22.
– El Niño’s popularity and magnitude are only second to Sorteo Extraordinario de Navidad’s. The lottery literally means The Body, with reference to Jesus Christ as a kid. El Niño annual draw takes place on January 5 of every year and is also provided by the LAE.
– Although of Danish descent, a Spanish nicknamed El Matador is the only player to have ever won-at the World Poker Tour and the World Series of Poker-the World Championship and the only Hispanic player to have ever won the World Series of Poker Main Event. His real name is Juan Carlos Mortensen.
– In 2017, the Extraordinary Christmas Lottery sold 165 million billetes (tickets) worth €3.3 billion and €2.3 billion were distributed as cash prizes. El Gordo was as huge as €720 million.
– Illegal gambling is a serious issue in Spain as it is believed that illegal gambling generates as much as legal gambling.
– Currently, there is a loophole in the gambling laws which makes it possible for Spanish players to gamble on unlicensed gambling websites without any penalty.
– The number of Spanish casinos was 42 in 2013, 43 in 2014, 43 in 2015, 45 in 2016, and is currently 60 as of March 2018.
– Ironically, El Gordo once landed in a small town called Sort, Catalan word for ‘luck’.
– In addition to the aforementioned games, cockfighting, dominoes, bullfighting, and card games are some of the most loved games in Spain. Particularly, bullfighting is a tradition in Spain, especially Madrid; the region features the largest bullfighting industry on the planet and the events are visited by thousands of people per year. Gambling on bullfighting is not permitted by law but small gambling facilities and illegal outlets usually offer fixed-odds betting on bullfighting events.
– Spanish gambling websites are required to use the .es domain name extension.
– Out of 60 casinos, Grupo Pro operates about 10 while Cirsa and Grupo Orenes individually operate about five.
– American casino company Las Vegas Sand Corporation is expected to open a 12-complexes casino in Spain in 2022 with inspirations from Las Vegas. Similarly, the BCN World in Tarragona, Catalonia will soon be transformed into an entertainment center (casino, golf, and hotel); the project was announced in 2012 but kick-started in 2017.
– In July 2013, Spain hosted the World Gaming Summit.
– Spanish poker players are only allowed to participate in regional, national, and international poker tournaments as they are not allowed to participate in offshore poker tournaments; this is the case in Italy and France as well.
– Pertaining Bitcoin gambling, the authorities (primarily El Ministerio de Hacienda y Administraciones Públicas), while responding to Coinffeine, a Spain-based P2P Bitcoin exchange platform, in 2014, classified Bitcoin gambling as online gambling so licenses are required prior offering their services. This was a surprise because most countries in and outside Europe either criminalize or are completely ignorant when it comes to cryptocurrencies. More interestingly, Spanish tax authorities recently announced their interest in collecting taxes on any kind of cryptocurrency mining within Spain.