One of the recurrent challenges that gambling companies face in Spain is the inevitable need to fulfil not just one set of regional regulations, but a regulatory framework for each one of the regions where they want to operate.
This was significantly mitigated in regards of online gambling activities, since the Spanish State authorities approved a specific and unique regime that applies uniformly to all territories in Spain. Nonetheless, in respect of land-based operations or geographically restricted networks, the above-mentioned regulatory difficulties remain.
This is not just an issue that applies to the gambling industries, but it has been identified to be one of the legal elements that should be reviewed in Spain in order to ensure a more investor-friendly environment in regulated markets and, in consequence, promote the economic development of the country.
Bearing in mind the above, the Spanish government has launched an ambitious legislative initiative in the form of the so-called Single Market Bill (“Anteproyecto de Ley de Unidad de Mercado”). Pursuant to the said bill, any operator doing business in a regulated environment (such as gambling) should just count with a single regional licence or authorisation, instead of being forced to obtain a title in each one of the Spanish regions where it wanted to operator. Nevertheless, in order to benefit from this simplified regime, the said operator should ensure that its services fulfil the regulatory requirements that apply in each one of the regions where it would be active.
The ultimate aim of this legal reform would be removing the obstacles that currently exist as a consequence of 17 parallel (and some times incompatible) regional regulatory frameworks in Spain. This situation has been described as fragmenting the Spanish market and, therefore, reducing the chances to consider Spain as a real single regulated market.
This reform is currently in its very early stages but it is certainly remarkable that the Spanish authorities have launched it in order to make the operation of gambling (and other) activities more reasonable in Spain. Nonetheless, several regional authorities have already stated that they are concerned about this reform, as it could imply – in their opinion - the temptation for the central government to impose its powers on those of the regional governments.
In the particular case of gambling, the reluctance from the regional authorities is increased by the fact that a significant number of them are afraid that this reform could imply a significant limitation of their regulatory powers in the filed of gambling. Hence, we should not be surprised if the Bill that is currently being considered by the central government faces numerous obstacles before it becomes a reality (if this is finally the case).
In any case, the mere existence of this discussion, added to the obvious benefits that would derive in favour of gambling companies, must be perceived by itself as good news and a step in the good direction.