Coronavirus countermeasures in Spain are hampering the return of top-flight soccer due to a ban on gambling adverts.
Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez was one of the first European leaders to take aim at the betting industry when COVID-19 struck.
With the issue of gambling addiction already a concern, he brought forward plans to ban betting and gaming adverts.
Gambling Adverts Banned During Game Time
When Spain went into lockdown on March 14, Sánchez declared a state of emergency. This declaration ushered in a wave of decrees, one of which was a complete ban on gambling adverts.
With Spain’s top soccer league (La Liga) due to restart on June 11, certain teams won’t be able to promote their sponsors. In practice, eight teams, including Valencia FC (sponsored by bwin), have a betting company as their primary sponsor. Many others have deals with gambling brands, but none will be able to display any logos during their first three games.
The ban applies to all forms of advertising. This means jerseys, stadiums, and TV/online content will have to be free from references to poker, casino games, and sports betting. Any club, operator, or media outlet that ignores the ban could be fined up to €1 million/$1.1 million.
Although the emergency measure was designed with good intentions, it’s an example of how coronavirus could have a lasting impact on the industry. Like Spain, regulators in France and the UK warned operators not to overstep the mark during the lockdown.
ARJEL and the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) stopped short of bringing in new rules. However, the message from European regulators and governments is that gambling adverts need to be toned down in the current climate.
New Normal Could Have Lasting Impact
The effects of coronavirus will live on long after infection rates have fallen to manageable levels. Social interactions may change and people could be more inclined to spend time inside, especially during the winter months.
Regulators have already taken steps to reduce the risk of problem gambling in response to these new conditions. However, with talk a “new normal” lasting for the foreseeable future, advertising bans could be an ongoing issue for betting and gaming companies.
For its part, the Spanish government says it will find a way to move forward with soccer clubs and their sponsors. But, efforts to reduce the links between gambling and soccer were in motion before coronavirus struck.
Following calls for a separation of the two industries in Italy and the UK, Spain’s government pledged to reduce betting adverts by 80%. Coronavirus emergency measures have simply sped up the process.
A general crackdown on the ways betting and gaming companies can promote their products seems to be inevitable, even after lockdowns are over.