Poker Ads Banned In Spain Amid Coronavirus Lockdown

Spain has passed a new law that certain types of online poker ads and marketing material from online casino operators.

As more and more countries introduce lockdown measures to stop the spread of coronavirus, the online gaming world stands to benefit from a huge increase in activity. However, Spanish government wants to cut down on the number of people turning to online poker games for entertainment. To make this happen, a new law has been introduced that bans the vast majority of poker ads.

Spain’s Coronavirus Lockdown

Spain has been on a strict lockdown regime since March 14th, as residents are banned from leaving their homes unless they are taking essential trips. The police were called in to enforce the lockdown measure, and they have issued over 270,000 fines for those residents not obeying the new rules.

The country is taking harsh measures, due to Spain having the third-highest number of cases (117,710) behind the USA (119,827) and Italy (119,827) – and, second-highest number of deaths (10,935). The lockdown was only supposed to last two week, but has been extended indefinitely. It is believed that May will see some restrictions lifted.

Online Gaming Sees Huge Increases

As is the case in many countries around the world, all leisure venues in Spain remain closed. So, residents are finding new ways to entertain themselves.

This means that more online gaming sites and streaming services are seeing much more activity than usual. For example, PokerStars’ recent Sunday Millions broke its record for total number of entries with over 93,000 runners while Steam broke its concurrent user record of 22 million.

While this has been great news for operators in varying gaming markets, the Spanish government has concerns that vulnerable individuals (problems gamblers and those at risk of becoming problem gamblers) will migrate towards online poker rooms and casinos. Thus, nearly 80% of online gambling ads have been banned.  

Advertising Ban Explained

The new rules are considered a “de facto gambling advertising ban”. While the bill was introduced a few weeks ago, it has just become effective yesterday. It has banned online poker operators and affiliates from the following:

  • Advertising any gambling activities while referring to the COVID-19 crisis
  • Offering promotions that attract new and existing customers, relying on bonuses, discounts or other perks that have financial value
  • Online ads, including email and social media marketing
  • Advertising on broadcast media and video platforms from 6am to 1am

Online poker sites have responded quickly to the ban. Take a look at the promotions page of PokerStars ES:

All bonuses have been removed from the PokerStars Spain website. Its bonuses page now reads “Currently, there are temporary restrictions that affect the refunds, prizes, offers and marketing communications that we can offer our customers.”


Compare it to the promotions page on PokerStars UK:

In other countries, like the UK, online poker sites can continue to offer bonuses to players.

It will be interesting to see if other regulated markets will follow Spain’s example. The idea is to stop problem gambling rates from rising while vulnerable individuals could be more exposed to gambling ads – but, it could be an ineffective measure. Only time will tell if the Spanish government sees its desired effect from banning online poker and gambling advertisements.

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