Spain: The lone smoker solution

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Very high expectations have arisen in Spain since two major gambling and entertainment projects were announced some months ago. Indeed, Las Vegas Sands has confirmed in several occasions its ambitious project for developing a large casino, resort and convention centres project in the region of Madrid. Following a similar path, a number of local and international investors have also announced their commitment for launching the so-called Barcelona World Project, another real estate, gambling and entertainment project to be located near to the touristic area of Tarragona, in the of Mediterranean coast.   

Nonetheless, the viability of these projects still depends at a great extent on a number of regulatory developments aimed at allowing the operation of the gambling activities as planned by the investors. Among such developments, one of the most difficult ones is to amend the currently existing national health regulations and, namely, the smoke ban that applies to casinos, bingo halls and any entertainment premises. Actually, the prohibition of smoking within gambling premises has been recurrently presented as a show-stopper for the investors.

This message has not been ignored by the Spanish authorities, as they have great employment and economic expectations on those projects and want to ensure their viability. In this sense, the Spanish national government has recently announced that it is seriously considering amending the health regulations in order to create a more flexible regime on the smoking issue and, consequently, leave the investors’ reluctance behind.

At this respect, yesterday the Health Minister stated in the Congress that the authorities are considering setting forth a special smoking regime for the premises of gambling operators. Pursuant to this approach, clients would be allowed to smoke in isolated rooms where no interaction was required with other players or with the operator’s staff. On the contrary, smoking would not be allowed in rooms where collective games (roulette, poker, black jack, baccarat, etc.) were offered.

In other words, it is likely that the Spanish authorities will allow smoking in rooms where customers can only play slot, video-lottery or whatever other gambling machines that do not require the involvement of other players or of dealers. From the perspective of the Spanish Government, this “lone smoker” solution should ensure a balance between health protection and attending the demands from the investors in Spain. 

Should this solution be finally approved (as it appears to be the case) one of the main regulatory obstacles for the success of the above-mentioned gambling and entertainment projects would be removed and, therefore, another step would had been taken towards the materialization of these ambitious projects.