While it’s against Spanish law to run your own casino, sportsbook or poker room without the proper licenses and approval, it is legal to gamble online in Spain. As more and more regions look to ease worldwide gambling restrictions, the gaming industry continues to grow at a rapid rate. Our Spain online gambling guide will walk you through what this site has to offer including casino reviews, a review of Spanish federal and regional gambling law events and touch on Spain’s gambling history.
B.C – Middle Ages – Some archaeological digs have unearthed evidence that Romans arrived in the Iberian region of what is now Spain, they found dice made from different materials, while the Middle Ages provided some of the earliest forms of card-based gambling as well as chess. As is often the case, gambling’s legality sought to collect taxes from a player’s winnings.
Card games were later banned via legislation in 1332 and 1387.
1700’s – Some 400 years later, Spain created and introduced one of the world’s first federal lotteries. This afforded the country’s citizens an opportunity to gamble and the the state an avenue to raise money for public projects.
1838 – The oldest Spanish casino opens. Casino de Madrid originally opened as a club for wealthy elites and remains one of the most-visited casinos today.
1800’s – Thanks to technological advances tied to the start of the Industrial Revolution, Spanish gambling establishments started to feature new games like roulette.
1920’s – With the exception of the state lottery, dictator Primo de Rivera began to phase out gambling around the country and the industry remained banned throughout dictator Francisco Franco’s reign between 1939-1975. Some other gambling exceptions include football (soccer) pools, horse racing and a charity lottery for National Organization for the Blind.
1977 – Following the end of Franco’s reign, the country expedited efforts to encourage tourism to the region and this included gambling. Starting in 1977, it was once again legal to gamble in Spain. A few years later, in 1981, slot machines were allowed.
2008-09 – The impact of the 2008 financial crisis and trickle down recessions that hammered Europe hit Spain especially hard and while they continue to dig out of an under-performing economy, gambling taxes collected continue to generate a good chunk of revenue.
2011 – The Spanish Gaming Act is passed.
2018 – As of 2018, there were 60 land based casinos in 35 different Spanish cities.
2020 – Spain’s consumer protection minister is looking to crack down on gambling advertising during the worldwide pandemic.
Spanish dictators banned most forms of gambling from 1920 through the mid-1970’s. While there were some exceptions, the iron fist of General Primo de Rivera’s and Francisco Franco limited the public’s entertainment options.
After the death of Franco and fascism in 1975, casinos, sports betting and poker were once again legal in Spain. Games of pure chance, like slot machines, were later legalized in 1981. This from an April 1977 edition of the New York Times:
In February, the Government of Prime Minister Adolfo Suarez formally legalized gambling, hoping thereby to give a boost to tourist earnings, Spain’s single largest source of foreign cash. Last year, according to official figures, 30,014,087 foreign visitors spent $3.1 billion.
The potentially lucrative Spanish gambling market has triggered a scramble for gambling licenses. Up and down the coast, which was developed by the wildest brand of free enterprise, American and European entrepreneurs are seeking Spanish partners.
This act was the first major federal gambling legislation overhaul of any kind since 1977. It’s aim was to adapt fundamental changes and technological advances in the industry, namely interactive online gambling. The previous regulatory operations were too archaic and inadequate to monitor the space.
What makes Spain’s Gaming Act unique is that gambling regulations and licenses exist on a Federal and Regional level. Because of the 17 autonomous regions, casino providers – both land-based and online – have a little more red tape to cut through. The type of license and and region where application was processed impact overhead costs.
“Spain has 17 autonomous regions. Each regional regulation contains its own catalogue of games of regulated gambling products that are allowed to be offered by an operator. Each of the 17 autonomous regions in Spain has its own licensing regime to allow companies to operate if authorised. The regions have their own catalogue of games approving the gaming products that can be developed and offered by the operator.”
While legislators continue to tie up loopholes in the act, the bottom line is it defines what gambling opportunities are legal and illegal in this digital age. But currently, you are fine to gamble online in Spain.