Spain: Approval of a simplified system for the fulfillment of regulatory duties by the gambling industry

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The Spanish Parliament has approved this week the so-called Market Unity Act (Ley de Unidad de Mercado, which can be consulted here). This piece of legislation is aimed at simplfying the difficulties of providing services or manufacturing or distributing goods connected with regulated activities in Spain (including gambling activities).

Indeed, one of the most relevant problems that exist for gambling operators in Spain is the fulfillment of . To the exception of online gambling activities (which are regulated at a national level), the requirements and conditions for the operation of gambling activities or gambling-related activities (e.g. the manufacture of equipment) belong to the regional authorities. This implies that any operator aiming at exploiting any such type of business in Spain must fulfill the specific regulatory requirements that are set firth in each one of the regions where those activities are going to be operated. This implies a very complex and burdensome regulatory mosaic that has become quite an obstacle for the operation of gambling businesses in Spain.

This new Market Unity Act aims at ensuring a simplification of that situation. At this regard, the said Act sets forth a theoretic system of automatic recognition of licenses, authorizations and technical homologations among the regional authorities of Spain. Therefore, once this new regime has fully entered into force an operator should just ensure fulfillment of the regulatory requirements in a given region and afterwards the corresponding license or authorization should be accepted by the authorities of other regions where the gambling goods or services were to be marketed.

That new regime is obviously inspired in the EU principles connected with the freedom of movement of goods and services and aims at avoiding the regulatory obstacles that operators recurrently face when they develop regulated activities in Spain.

In any case, the transition towards this new simplified approach appears quite challenging. Indeed, the Act sets forth that a six-month period is given in order to amend the regulations that may be affected by the new regime. This implies in fact the amendment of thousands of technical and general regulations issued by the regional authorities in Spain.

In addition, some of the regional governments have already expressed their reluctance to accept this new regime, as they consider that its implementation would actually imply an invasion from the central government of some of the powers they are granted with on the basis of the Spanish Constitution (including, for example, the regulation of gambling activities). At this respect, it is probable that the initial enforcement of this new legal regime will lead to quite high degree of litigation.

It is uncertain how difficult the development of this new regime may be, but it is a first step that should lead to the simplification of the fulfillment of regulatory duties by the operators and manufacturers and companies from other related industries.