Spain’s online gambling industry registered double-digit growth in the first quarter of 2020, with solid year-on-year increases across all gaming verticals.
Figures released Friday by Spain’s Dirección General de Ordenación del Juego (DGOJ) regulatory body show local licenced online operators produced revenue of just under €218 million in the three months ending March 31, up 12.5 percent from the same period last year and 17.6 percent higher than in the final quarter of 2019, which suffered a rare negative growth example.
Sports betting remained the dominant vertical with revenues of €110.6 m in Q1, up 8.6% year-on-year and almost a quarter above Q419. In-play betting revenue rose by 4 percent to €61.3 m following a year-on-year fall in-play turnover. That trend was replicated by pre-match wagering, with revenue rising 13.1 percent to €46.3 million following a 10 percent decline in turnover.
Owing to strong growth in slots (€43.2 m, +15.7 percent), live roulette (€18.4 m, +35.6 percent) and standard roulette (€10.7 m, +16.7 percent), casino sales were up 8.3 percent year-on-year to €77.6 m. In the flip side, blackjack revenue dropped to €5.3 m by 17.1 percent, while baccarat dropped to only €614k by almost 80 percent.
Online poker sales soared to €24.2 m year-on-year by 13.1 percent, as tournaments rose by almost 16 percent to €16.1 m, while cash games increased by a modest 8 percent to €8.1 m. Both the tournament fees (+30.7 percent) and the stakes in cash games (+22.8 percent) show strong growth year-on-year.
As for the lesser lights on the market, bingo rose 14.7 percent to €3.7 million, while the category of ‘contests’ doubled year-on-year to €1.9 million.
Licensed Spanish operators spent € 118.2 million on ads during Q1, up 28.3 percent from last year’s same timeframe. Media spending grew almost a quarter to €59.9 million, while bonus deals soared 46 percent to €42.4 million. Affiliate marketing grew by 1 percent to €10.3 million, while sponsorship spending increased by 23 percent to € 6 million.
Despite this rise in spending, only 868k new online gambling accounts were opened during Q1, a rise of only 5.6 percent year-on-year, while active accounts were essentially flat at 911k.
When Spain moves ahead with plans to significantly reduce the advertising activities of its online licensees, all marketing spending will experience substantial reductions. The reaction of stakeholders to the announcement Thursday was fast and furious, with particular focus on the furious.
Spanish internet operator association Jdigital noted that Spain’s “worrisome” plans to ban almost all gambling advertisements included a hypocritical carveout for the state-run SELAE lottery operation (which, in typical tone-deaf fashion, chose Thursday to unveil its annual Christmas Lottery marketing campaign).
Jdigital expressed the hope that this overt favouritism would be noticed by the European Commission, while arguing that “discrimination and harassment of private gaming” seemed to represent more of a “ideological” response than “credible consumer protection objectives.”
The Cejuego industry group was similarly sceptical that Spain’s “completely discriminatory treatment” would meet with EC approval, saying that there was “no data or cause” to back up the government ‘s claim that gambling marketing harmed Spanish consumers.