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Spanish Gaming Sector Slowing, National Online Regs Still Absent

2 June 2009

By Graham Wood
Until recently, Spain was considered to be a new, fertile territory for gaming operators, with regional retail licenses available and national Internet gambling legislation expected in 2010.

But recent months have shown that not all is well in the Spanish gaming sector. Operators like Ladbrokes have advised of lean times, while William Hill announced its withdrawal from the country altogether. Little has been heard, moreover, about the eagerly awaited new laws for online gaming.

At first glance there appeared to be little slowdown in the bingo and slots business for the Spanish market leader Codere.

The company announced relatively positive figures for the first quarter of 2009 showing growth in the amount of slots in the market (54,412, up 1,996 on the 2008 figure), the number of bingo halls (an additional eight bringing the total to 138) and the number of casinos (which rose from five to six).

Codere also revealed that 146 Victoria Apuestas betting outlets were now operational.

However, the company reported a marked decline in revenues per slot machine and from its estate of bingo halls, though the company’s Latin American business took up some of the slack.

Codere's revenues from Spain fell 15.2 percent to 51.5 million euros, leading to a 38.6 percent reduction in Ebitda there, down to 11.3 million euros.

Furthermore, William Hill, Codere’s partner in the Victoria Apuestas joint venture, announced it was pulling out of the Spanish retail market in Madrid and the Basque Country where it has licenses, and would concentrate on online betting and gaming.

But the rival Spanish-British joint venture Sportium, which brings together competitors Cirsa and Ladbrokes, appears to be pressing on despite the exit of Hills.

According to a Ladbrokes’ spokesman, the number of Sportium-brand betting outlets in the Madrid region was on course to grow from the present 61 to around 100 by the end of 2010, but the company has also made it known that the slow pace of regulatory change in the 15 other regions outside of Madrid was unexpected.

Alberto Eljarrat, chief executive for Sportium, as recently as February had been upbeat about the company’s fortunes. But it appears that with only Valencia and Castilla y Leon openly discussing an imminent new regime, some of the initial enthusiasm is waning.

Furthermore, with the two gaming giants Codere and Cirsa reporting a slowdown in their bingo and slots business in Spain, and the country suffering badly from the economic slowdown, all eyes are now on Parliament where the new regulations for online betting and gaming are eagerly awaited.

However, in a country where gaming has been the responsibility of the regions rather than central government, and where each region applies different regulatory and taxation requirements, there is now pressure by some regions to set up their own regulations for e-gaming -- a prospect which could make the online sector unmanageable.

Spanish Gaming Sector Slowing, National Online Regs Still Absent is republished from iGamingNews.com.
 

Belgian Liberalization Not without Sticking Points

1 June 2009
Although a good deal of attention has been focused on the controlled opening in France, similar liberalization in Belgium is also on the way. However, the proposals for legalizing Internet betting in France's smaller but no less affluent neighbor have proven to be more controversial. Betting in retail ... (read more)
 

Stanleybet Complaint Turns Brussels' Eye toward Greece

27 May 2009
Following complaints by Greek punters and intermediaries working in Stanleybet International’s outlets in the country, the European Parliament has announced that it will be investigating judicial abuses in Greece’s sports betting sector. Greece presently considers overseas bookmakers illegal, but allows one monopoly operator, OPAP, to offer sports betting in the country. ... (read more)
 

Opposition Taking Shape against French Liberalization

21 May 2009
France’s imminent online gambling liberalization has not been without its critics, but it now appears more concrete steps are being taken to challenge some of the measures proposed in the new legislation. At the beginning of May, Karin Riis-Jørgensen, a Liberale Parti member of European Parliament from ... (read more)

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Graham Wood
Graham Wood