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Online Gaming Booming in Spain Despite Continued Struggles from Online Poker

PokerNews Spain
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  • Spanish online gaming revenues soar to €102.32 million during the fourth quarter of 2015.

  • Despite online gaming revenues hitting record levels in Spain, online poker continues to struggle.

Online gaming revenues are once again on the rise in Spain, according to the Q1 2016 report recently published by Spanish gaming regulator Directorate General for the Regulation of Gambling (DGOJ).

Total gross gaming revenues (GGR) in the regulated Spanish online marketplace increased by 32.15 percent from €77.42 million during the first quarter of 2015 to €102.32 million in the first quarter of this year. A smaller increase of 7.97 percent took place when compared to the €94.76 million in GGR recognized during the fourth quarter of last year.

As one might expect, total customer deposits increased in a similar ratio to that of GGR. The DGOJ reported €271.17 million in deposits during the first quarter of 2016, representing a sizable 39.98-percent growth from the €242.08 million deposited during the same period a year ago and a 12.02-percent increase from the fourth quarter of 2015.

Advertising expenditure increases appear to be the key catalyst for the market's growth. Spanish online gaming operators invested €32.71 million in advertising during the most recent quarter, or a 46.06-percent increase from the €22.39 million spent in the same period a year ago and a similar 40.53-percent increase from the €23.27 million spent during the last quarter of 2015.

Online Casino and Sports Surge

One of the biggest drivers to the overall growth of the Spanish online gaming operators came in the online casino vertical. Total GGR increased by an astounding 104.13 percent from €12.27 million during the first quarter of 2015 to €25.04 million during the first quarter of 2016. This also represented an increase of 10.62 percent from the €22.63 million in GGR recorded in the fourth quarter of 2015.

Online sports wagering, which is the biggest vertical for online gaming operators, also increased, albeit at a slower rate than that of online casino. Operators recognized €58.65 million in GGR for sports wagering in the first quarter of 2016, representing an increase of 29 percent from the same period a year ago and a 9.79-percent increase from the prior quarter.

Small increases were also recorded in bingo and contest verticals when compared to the same period a year ago, although both of these verticals count negligibly towards the total GGR for the Spanish marketplace.

Online Poker Struggling

While things appear rosy in general for Spanish-facing online gaming operators, the same can't be held true for those focusing on online poker. Spanish online poker GGR declined by 12.03 percent from €16.81 million in the first quarter of 2015 to €14.79 million in the first quarter of 2016.

However, the situation may be stabilizing, as a small growth of 1.59 percent took place when compared to the €14.56 million recorded during the fourth quarter of 2015.

Can Shared Liquidity Save Online Poker in Spain?

Although online poker in Spain continues to have difficulties, which many attribute to the market being ring-fenced to residents in the country, many believe that the tide could turn in the near future. In addition to showing signs of stability when comparing the most recent two quarters, there are hopes by many that online gaming operators could be permitted to share liquidity with other countries.

Spanish gaming regulation allows for pacts to be created with other European marketplaces if an agreement can be reached with a foreign gaming regulator.

France could provide the biggest potential in this regard, as the country's gaming regulator, Autorité de régulation des jeux en ligne, better known as ARJEL, recently announced that the French Senate approved an amendment to its gaming regime earlier in the month to allow for shared player liquidity with other countries in the European Union and the European Economic Area. If an agreement can be reached between France and Spain, it could prove to increase online poker activity for both countries due to regulated gaming operators being enable to offer bigger, more populated games which should prove to be more attractive to players that are typically playing on the very sizable unregulated gray market in both countries.

Portugal, who is expected to launch regulated online gaming next month, could potentially be another candidate, as the country's gaming regulator Regulação Inspeção de Jogos (SRIJ) recently stated that it would permit international liquidity for online poker as part of its new gaming regime. One complication for some gaming operators, even if an agreement could be reached, is that SRIJ announced that business-to-business licenses which allow for the sharing of liquidity between a variety of online poker operators on a single shared network will be prohibited.

A partnership could also be reached with Italy, who, like Spain, already allows for shared liquidity in its gaming regime.

Stay tuned at PokerNews as more develops in the Spanish gaming marketplace.

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