Alejandro Landaluce is the CEO of Cejuego, the employers’ association that represents 60% of this sector, and especially companies with physical establishments such as bingos, casinos or bookmakers that have flooded half of Spain in recent years. It is very critical with the “much more restrictive” new draft advertising regulation of the game online that has been sent to the European Commission by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, on the understanding that it discriminates against private operators. He wants to reply to the general director of the Game, Mikel Arana, who in his First interview Since it was named, granted to elDiario.es, it justified the differential treatment for the so-called public game (Lotteries and ONCE) in which these entities are not for profit.
Landaluce rejects Arana’s argument that the ban on advertising during the state of alarm led to a drop in betting, which he attributes to the suspension of sports competitions. And she argues that ONCE, which is going to be able to continue announcing itself, “is not an NGO.” The interview, by gajes of the technology, is carried out between videoconference and the telephone.
The new director of the Game justifies the tightening of the regulation of the advertising of the bets by the greater “social alarm”. What do you think?
It is not true. The previous draft of February 24 already spoke in the justifying memory of the “growing social sensitivity” and the possible “trivialization of risks” linked to gambling. That social alarm already existed then and before. The alarm state begins on March 15 and on March 31 prohibit advertising. They are only 15 days in which they realize that there is a lot of advertising on television.
Consumption also says online gambling did not increase during confinement thanks to that advertising ban.
How will it grow? If sports betting, which is 50% of online gaming, is closed, it is logical that online gaming does not grow. There was no NBA, no Champions League, no Roland Garros, no League. There was no sport anywhere in the world. That is why during the pandemic online gaming has not grown. Not because of an advertising ban. You cannot remove that data from the equation, it is very important. Although obviously the advertising may have some relationship. Those two justifications that Mikel Arana used about the need for a much more restrictive decree fall under their own weight.
When it speaks of this “social alarm”, the Government also refers to the political consensus, unusual in these times, on the need to short-tie the sector. It has been seen in the appearances of Minister Alberto Garzón in Congress and Senate.
But the social alarm that was mainly on the street, and that is what caused politicians to talk about this, already existed not in January or February, but long before. We have always defended that a decree regulating advertising at the state level was needed and is needed. But not this one.
Consumption justifies the different treatment given to the so-called public game (Lotteries and ONCE) in that they are not for profit.
In this draft and in the previous one there was talk of tackling the trivialization of the game from the point of view of minors, with that publicity that can tell you that you can become a millionaire, because you have to protect the minor and young people, in a strip age ranging from 18 to 21 years, who still do not have these concepts very clear. And we agree on that. But the profit motive is another different subject. It is one thing for the pools to be developed by the state and bets by the private sector. But the game concept is the same. We are talking about an ideological issue. It is no longer a problem gambling or child protection debate.
Another justification Arana put forward is that deferred play predominates in public play and there is no immediate reward.
But a sports bet is a deferred game: I can play today for the Champions League final or Sunday’s game, it is rarely for now; while an ONCE ‘scratch’ is totally instantaneous. All that justification that the public game is good and the private one is bad has no support. The bad game is the illegal one. And the good one, the legal one; either from state authority or from private authority. It is a totally different discussion. We are no longer talking about child protection or problematic gambling, which is what supports this rule together with social alarm or the trivialization of gambling. When you play Bonoloto or EuroMillions, they are telling you that you can become a millionaire. Announcing a EuroMillions or a scratch off at ten in the morning that will change your life, will allow you to leave your job because you are going to become a millionaire, at a certain time and for kids of 8, 12 or 15 years, it is It is just as inadvisable to advertise, I don’t know, electronic bingo. It is a trivialization of the game. We cannot justify a hardening of advertising if 50% of those who do it, Selae and ONCE, have ads with messages that go to sentiment, that life smiles at you and look for millionaires. They are messages that have nothing to do with whether or not there is profit.
But the decree regulates the content of the announcements of Lotteries and ONCE. They will be able to continue announcing themselves but without hinting at the game.
If you are going to regulate the content, do it for the public and the private. There is no justification for distinguishing between the two due to the lack of profit. The minor will not do it.
These restrictions, they say, are going to incentivize illegal gambling.
Any economic activity has to meet rules. The Police and the State are on top, there is legal security for clients and businessmen, taxes for the State … When you access a legal gambling website there is an interaction of the Administration with the player, you will skip screens that warn if you have been in the game for a long time playing … Illegal gambling, not having the same requirements, does not have to pay taxes or meet a series of requirements. You can offer better prices than the legal one. And it is much more complex to control. If you remove the advertising from the legal game, you are equating both. Given the anonymity of one and the other, the client will choose the one that offers the best economic offer. It is clear.
The previous decree introduced an exception, now eliminated, to allow bookmakers to advertise during sports broadcasts starting at 8:00 PM. The CNMC criticized it, which in principle is not very ideological.
When I speak of ideological debate, I mean that this is more of a conceptual or philosophical debate. Thinking that it is better that the game is public and not private is a concept that can be debated, such as saying that all education should be public. What can not be is that because they are not for profit they can advertise at any time.
With the prohibition of sports sponsorship of bookmakers, is there a risk that the State will be held liable for contracts that are in force?
That does not concern me. But if the State Lottery can sponsor the Olympic ADO, I don’t understand that a private gaming company cannot sponsor a women’s rugby team. It is about giving everyone the same treatment, regardless of that profit motive. Because also, the ONCE is not an NGO, you just have to see the salaries of the people who are in the ONCE, see Ilunion [su división empresarial], etc. And Lotteries is obviously the most profitable company in the State, taxes are included. But in the private game there are also 1,200 million in taxes. In the end, discerning between public and private so you can advertise is pointless. Although in other aspects they have a different treatment. For example, they do not pay taxes, something that seems correct to me as a citizen.
What legal ways are proposed to prevent this decree from going ahead?
There are many possible routes, we have time and we are analyzing them and seeing where we can go. Obviously, there are going to be a lot of people who are directly affected who are going to take the lead in these types of claims, be it football teams or the league. Let’s see how it comes from Europe and that will give us a clue.
How is the gaming market behaving with the new normal?
Very little by little, with prudence. People are recovering their habits unevenly and much more slowly in areas that are highly dependent on tourism, such as the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands or the Costa del Sol. Other more urban areas are gradually recovering. We are like all sectors in Spain, with a very slow and weak recovery and with many uncertainties. Leisure is not a primary need and logically people are very cautious.