Dirección General de Ordenación del Juego Review

By Alex Smith Apr 5, 2024

Casinomeister's Verdict

This premier gambling agency protects Spanish players by offering strict licensure to valid casino operations.

8 Our Rating
Oversight
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Responsiveness
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Transparency
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Infrastructure
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History
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Dirección General de Ordenación del Juego
2011
Highest

Spain has quite a complex history when it comes to online gambling – and gambling in general – and while today, it’s the Spanish Gaming Commission (known as the Dirección General de Ordenación del Juego or DGOJ) that’s responsible for regulating online gambling, everything is still relatively new – and that’s down to the fact that gambling itself was only actually decriminalized in 1977. In 2011, the Spanish government passed a law that allowed online gambling to be played in the country – and the act contains two main stipulations;

Firstly, any online casino games played on a federal level require a federal license – or, if no license, authorization to offer such a game to players. Once a federal license has been awarded, that license is then sufficient for use in every region where the casino games operate.

Secondly, casino games – both in online and land-based casinos – need to be licensed by the relevant departments of that autonomous region. That’s because, in Spain, gambling is typically regulated on a regional level – so it should come as no surprise to learn that illegal gambling operators are still pretty prevalent in Spain, as legal online gambling operators must undergo a fair bit of hard work just to even get an online gambling license in the first place.

About The Spanish Gambling Act

The Spanish Gambling Act was brought in as the result of a number of changes that had occurred in the country ever since the Spanish government decided to decriminalize gambling back in 1977. As the internet was growing, and online gambling was becoming a ‘thing’, the Spanish government realized that they needed to adapt to this new state-of-the-art technology, and the rapid speed at which online betting and online gaming developed meant that most of Spain’s current regulatory powers were deemed essentially useless in the modern-day world.

For example, before the Spanish gambling act was passed, online games that game developers and software providers produced in more than one autonomous region were completely unregulated – and this led to a number of shady game developers entering the online gambling market, with zero consequences for offering players unfair, rigged games. Another problem was that cross-border gaming wasn’t explicitly banned in law – so while businesses based in Spain were legally unable to offer games without a proper license, there was nothing to stop foreign companies from accepting Spanish players.

This all started to change in 2007 when the government passed the Law on Measures to Develop the Information Society (Ley 56/2007, de 28 de diciembre, de Medidas de Impulso de la Sociedad de la Información) – and this was approved by the Spanish Parliament. One of the stipulations of this act was that the Spanish government needed to register gambling operations and regulate them – and a list of principles was developed; principles that would then be included in the future gambling regulation act.

While these new laws were meant to be enacted in 2009, the process didn’t officially begin until September 2010. The country’s state lottery (Loterías y Apuestas del Estado) (LAE) began the mission to establish a regulatory process in the country, and this continued until the General Directorate for Gambling Regulation (Dirección General de Ordenación del Juego) was duly incorporated.

In February 2011 the 6th version of the draft Gambling Act was officially turned into a Bill when the Spanish Congress decided to publish it in its Gazette – and it was approved by the Congress just a few months later, although a few crucial changes were made, leading to the bill being officially approved by the Congress on the 12th May, 2011.

Definitions of Gambling in Spain

Unlike we’ve seen in other countries, Spain doesn’t create an act solely for online gambling – instead, choosing to lump everything together. For example, the Gambling Act classifies gambling as an activity where a physical amount of money, or economically measurable objects are put at risk on events which are uncertain – and these ‘events’ need to be, at least somewhat, dependent on chance. The prizes – in order for the activity to be classified as gambling – need to be cash or in-kind, although this can vary quite a bit depending on the type of game that’s being played.

Under Spanish law, there are, essentially, three different aspects of gambling; chance gambling, pay-to-play and ‘the existence of a prize’. If one or more of these aspects is NOT present, then it’s not legally classified as gambling in Spain, and the games or sports betting being offered will fall outside of the regulator’s remit.

When it comes to online gambling, the Spanish Gambling Act refers to all online casino games that are performed through electronic channels, which also includes IT and interactive systems; the definition of the legislation means that any public or private communication network that’s involved can involve television, internet, land lines, mobile phones or any other interactive communication system, and this goes for both real-time or recorded.

Who is Responsible for Enforcing Legislation in Spain?

The Practical Law – a site run by Thomson Reuters – has an excellent piece about who’s actually in charge of gambling regulation in Spain:

“For federal licences pursuant to the Gaming Act, the competent body for issuing licenses, supervising games and enforcement powers is the General Directorate for Gambling Regulation (Dirección General de Ordenación del Juego) (previously the National Gaming Commission).

For regional authorisations, the respective regional competent body is in charge of issuing licenses, supervision and enforcement. In most cases, regional bodies will be subject to the supervision of the regional departments of finance or interior.

The Gaming Act and the regional regulations do not prescribe a set limit on the number of available licenses. However, this is a condition that can be included on the basis of the public tender for gaming licenses, once a call for it has been launched by the corresponding gaming authority.”

Types of Licenses

Under the criteria set out by the government there’s a number of different licenses that can be issued to online gambling companies for the purposes of online betting. Below, we’re going to look at the different types of betting available, and whether or not there’s licenses available to cover that sector:

Betting

The first type of license available for online gambling operators in Spain is the betting license, and this covers all different types of sports betting that gambling operators may want to offer to their customers. Interestingly, the Spanish Gaming Commission doesn’t offer just one betting license to cover all sports betting; instead, there’s multiple single licenses available to players which includes pool on sports betting, fixed odds sports betting, pools on horse racing, fixed odds horse racing, other fixed odds betting and exchange betting.

If a company wants to offer any of the above gambling activities to players then they need to make sure that they hold one of the relevant licenses in order to be able to do so.

Raffles

At the time of writing the Spanish Gaming Commission does not issue single licenses available for raffles; this means that technically, operators in Spain are unable to offer raffles through the use of a gaming license. However, this doesn’t mean that they’re unable to offer raffles – it just means that doing so will fall outside of the remit of the Gaming Commission.

Contests

The Spanish Gambling Commission is allowed to award singular licenses for those who wish to run contests – although there’s relatively little information about this online, and it’s not clear exactly what online gambling operators are allowed to do with or without a contest license.

Other Games

When it comes to most online casinos it’s the ‘other games’ license that they’ll typically be applying for, and there’s a wide variety of different licenses available, all of which are required if an online casino wants to be able to offer those specific games to players.

For example, there’s poker, Roulette, Blackjack, Bingo, Baccarat, slots and complementary game licenses available – and it’s also well-worth noting that licenses can overlap; for example, if an online casino wants to also offer a sportsbook along with video slots, they would need both an other games license for video slots along with a license to offer sports betting events.

It’s only possible for operators to get a general license if they make their application while during the public tender announcement by the Minister of Finance; for example, in 2017 there was a third call for operators to apply for licenses, and there’s just one of these windows open each year – so operators must be quick if they want to be able to even apply for a license.

However, unlike in other online gambling jurisdictions, the Spanish Gaming Commission isn’t limited as to the number of licenses it can hand out; this means that, provided that an online gambling operator is meeting its responsibilities in Spain, they can get a license – regardless of how many other online casinos or gambling sites are operating.

Eligibility Criteria

There’s quite a large number of requirements that operators need to follow when filing for an application to receive an online gambling license from the Spanish Gaming Commission – and the first major requirement that operators need to follow is that they need, usually, to be located as an incorporated company in Spain.

However, it is permissible for operators to be located in an EEA equivalent – but if the company is located outside of Spain then they need to have a permanent representative in Spain that’s capable of receiving notifications. What this essentially means is that all businesses that want to get a license need to have an address in spain.

It should also be noted that any business that wants to do business in the Spanish online gambling market needs to have objects that are restricted to the organization, commercialization, and exploitation of gaming and/or betting activities.

When completing the application process, online gambling operators need to provide documentation within three core areas:

Legal Solvency

The first stage that online gambling operators need to show the commission is their legal solvency; for example, any business that wants a license will need to prove that their company is an incorporated body, and they also need to provide certificates to prove that it doesn’t have any outstanding tax or social security payments that are due.

During this stage of the application process, online gambling operators will also need to pay all of the relevant administrative fees; this varies greatly depending on the type of license that they are applying for; the more licenses, the bigger the cost of the application.

Economic Solvency

Any business that wants a license from the Spanish Gaming Commission needs to fulfill a number of economic requirements; for example, the first thing that operators need to do is provide the commission with their last three years of annual accounts – and they also need to provide a description of the origin of where all of the external resources came from that they plan to use when developing their gambling activities and businesses.

One of the most financially-impactful requirements is the need for operators to provide significant monetary guarantees; this means that operators need to show they have anywhere from EUR50,000 to EUR2 million in order to be able to successfully run their gambling business. The Practical Law does a great job of explaining these fees:

“These amounts are required for the initial period, which commences on the date of the license application and ends on 31 December of the year after the license has been granted. After this, the total amount in guarantees is amended (in most of the cases reduced), and instead, the gaming operator must pay one amount for all its general and single licenses. 

This amount is calculated based on the figures for the previous year according to a specified percentage. This percentage is established by law on the gross or net income of all the single licenses that the operator has been granted and varies depending on the license. Once the calculation is made, the guarantee will be the highest amount between EUR1 million and the sum of the net or gross income of each game.

As an example, an operator offering the games of roulette, blackjack and slots during the previous year must make the following calculation: the legal percentage established by the regulation for the calculation of the guarantee for these games is 8% on gross gaming revenue (GGR). Assuming the GCR for these games for the last year was EUR1 million, EUR500,000 and EUR1 million respectively. To update the guarantee, the operator must calculate how much 8% on the GGR of these games is.”

Technical Solvency

All online casinos and online betting sites that apply for a license from the Spanish Gaming Commission are required to have a wide variety of technical solvency standards in place, and the commission requires that all licensees are able to prove certificates and documents from approved third-party testing houses to ensure that all casino games offered are truly fair and that they use a valid, certified random number generator.

For example, whenever a new online casino applies for a license from the Gaming Commission they are required to submit a preliminary certification report that comes directly from an independent laboratory. This certification must show that the online gambling operator’s internal control system complies with the technical specifications and it also needs to show that all of their data is stored locally in Spain.

In addition, operators are required to have rigorous procedures in place to deal with anti-money laundering and fraud prevention. They also need to have a robust operating plan in place, and any contracts with other online gambling businesses should be legally sound – i.e. the company makes sure that they have been looked over and approved by a legal team.

Disputes and Player Complaints

While the Spanish Gaming Commission may not be as big or as well-known as other online gambling regulators, they do take their responsibilities seriously, and they work hard to ensure that all of their licensees are adhering to the terms and conditions of their licenses. Regular (yearly) checks are carried out to make sure that licensees are not in breach of their license rules – however, in case things do go wrong the commission does have a complaints procedure.

In the first instance you’ll be required to make your complaint directly to the online gambling operator in question; the commission will be unable to help unless you have first raised your complaint directly with the operator.

However, should the response you get back be unsatisfactory you will then be able to raise your complaint directly with the commission. You are required to complete this process through a web-based form, and while the commission will look into your complaint, there’s no guarantee that they will take enforcement action on the operator if they find in your favor.

Pros and Cons

While the Spanish Gaming Commission may be fairly new to the online gaming scene when compared to other online gaming operators, they do a pretty solid job in making sure that their licensees are adhering to the terms and conditions of the license awarded to them. This means that when you play at an online gaming site licensed by the commission, you can rest assured that the operator has been thoroughly checked and vetted.

Furthermore, the commission has shown that it is not afraid to take action against online gambling operators who breach the terms and conditions of their license; for example, they may choose to issue fines to companies or revoke their license completely if they’re found to have acted in an unethical or even illegal manner.

We like the fact that the application process for a license from the Spanish Gaming Commission is so lengthy; this not only prevents rogue, shady operators from easily getting their hands on licenses (we’re looking at you, Curacao) but it also helps to make sure that the companies who receive a license actually have the financial capabilities to run a fair and honest online gambling business.

While the commission may not be quite up to scratch with some of the other online gambling regulators that we’re used to seeing today (not least thanks to a fair amount of strange rules and regulations that are all set out in Spanish), but they do a pretty good job and we’re sure that as the online gambling market continues to open up we’ll see them continuing their reach to regulation all online casinos that want to enter the Spanish market.

FAQs

Can online casinos accept Spanish players?

Yes; in fact, there’s no specific online gambling regulations from the Spanish government that makes it illegal for Spanish players to join online casinos that are located outside of the country. However, in order for online casinos to be located in Spain and accept Spanish players they do need to hold a valid online gambling license from the Comisión nacional del Juego – the Spanish Gaming Commission.

Be warned that if you’re from Spain and you choose to play at online casinos that accept players from your country but don’t hold a valid online gambling license, if something goes wrong you have virtually no legal recourse to reclaim your money.

Is it legal to place sports bets online in Spain?

Yes; as mentioned earlier, if an online gambling website holds a valid license from the Comisión nacional del Juego then the site is able to accept sports bets. However, they must have a dedicated sports betting license – and that’s because the Spanish Gaming Commission (the Comisión nacional del Juego) requires licensees to have different licenses for different online gambling activities.

Where can I find the best online casinos that accept players from Spain?

If you’re interested in playing at the top online casinos and betting at sites licensed by the Comisión nacional del Juego then you’re in the right place – and here on this page you’ll be able to find a list of the best online casinos that hold a license from the Comisión nacional del Juego. All of the online casinos shown here on this page have passed a rigorous number of checks by our team online gambling online gambling experts, and the sites have proven themselves to be legit.

At the top of this page you’ll not only be able to browse through a list of the different sites but you’ll also be able to view a breakdown of the different bonuses and promotions on offer at each online casino. If you see one that you like the look of and want to claim, simply press the ‘play now’ button to be taken directly to the casino’s sign-up page.

Are gambling debts enforceable in Spain?

Yes, Spain is one of the few European countries that has decided to make gambling debts enforceable and this means that if you do find yourself getting into debt as a result of playing at an online betting site that’s licensed in Spain then the owner of the business can legally come after you in the courts.

While it’s unlikely that this will ever happen to you it’s something that you should be aware of, especially if you’re planning on playing at land-based casinos in Spain.

Can I play electronic bingo in Spain?

Yes, electronic bingo or online bingo is allowed in Spain provided that the company in question holds a valid license or permit to run such games. When online gambling operators apply for a license in Spain they need to choose which license they would like to apply for; if they want to offer online bingo then they’ll need to apply specifically for a bingo license and without this they will be unable to offer any bingo games.

Many of the online casinos we feature here on this page which are licensed by the Comisión nacional del Juego hold multiple online gambling licenses and this means that they’re able to offer multiple different services. However, you should always double check before joining a site to make sure that they do offer the online gambling activities you want as this can save a fair amount of time and hassle later down the line.

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