On Sunday thousands of people took to the streets in several Spanish cities to protest the proliferation of gambling and the rapid increase in the number of betting shops across the country, local news outlets say.
Protesters have urged lawmakers to introduce policies that allow alternative leisure activities to be “decent.”
Spain’s regulated market for gambling is one of Europe’s biggest. Since 2014, the country has seen a significant increase in gambling. According to information from the national gambling regulator, the Directorate General for Gambling Regulation (DGOJ), the country’s gambling industry increased 387 percent from € 2.8 billion to over € 13 billion between 2012 and 2017.
The rally in Madrid attracted the largest number of demonstrators. Protesters protested against the significant growth of so-called betting houses in central parts of the capital, with some of the gambling facilities found near schools.
In Madrid alone, the number of betting shops has risen at a staggering rate of 300 percent since 2013, according to recent studies.
The Madrid rally against Betting Houses (Plataforma de Madrid contra las Casas de Apuestas) was organised by the Madrid Platform. Commenting on the city and countrywide demonstrations, Adrián Belaire, a platform spokesperson, told local media that their goal was to begin a “constant, daily and committed battle” to eradicate betting houses “which are destroying our neighbourhoods.”
Mr. Belaire added that they are not looking to enact laws that are meant to curtail the activities of betting shops and want their full closure. He added that there is a problem with 20 betting facilities, but a single one is also an issue.
Mr. Belaire also pointed out that such properties can not occur in towns as they are always situated next to schools, community centres, libraries or parks.
Experts from Madrid’s Official College of Psychologists say that the age limit for accessing private gambling facilities–such as betting shops–has decreased and “more and more families are asking for help because their children have addiction problems.” According to protestors, online gambling has even increased the prevalence of gambling in recent years, particularly after the legacies.
The Spanish government monitors online gambling and regulates the distribution of games across the country. Nevertheless, Spain’s autonomous communities are responsible in their respective territories for controlling brick-and-mortar gambling facilities.
Advertising gambling and casino goods have recently been banned by officials from Spain through public media outlets. They also suggested a ban on the position of betting shops to avoid putting these facilities within 100 meters of schools.
A survey by the Rehabilitated Gamblers Federation of Spain and the Psychologists Association of Madrid found that one in five Spanish teenagers were addicted to gambling, which is the highest rate in Europe.
This year, Spanish lawmakers debated a series of measures to curtail the country-wide prevalence of gambling. A blanket ban on gambling ads is one of these initiatives. Spanish Ombudsman Francisco Fernández Marugán proposed a total ban on advertising for gaming and betting goods.
A ban on celebrity endorsements for gambling products and services as well as the display of gambling operators ‘ logos during sporting events has also reportedly been mulled by the country’s government.