Spain’s gambling ombudsman, the Dirección General de Ordenación del Juego (DGOJ) has published a new report disclosing that the 2020 calendar year saw an increase in the number of people registered for the country’s self-exclusion scheme. Last year, a total of 56,329 players registered on Spain’s self-exclusion register officially known as the Registro General de Interdicciones de Acceso al Juego (RGIAJ).
2020’s number of self-excluded players has 6,042 more people than the 50,287 figure that was recorded for the 2019 calendar year, representing a 12% surge, the first double-digit increase since the DGOJ set up the RGIAJ registry in 2015.
Per the DJOJ report, 24.5% of the total number of self-excluded players in the country came from Andalusia, a region that incidentally holds the highest population of Spain. There was a 7.1% increase in self-excluded players from the said region compared to 2019, to bring the 2020 total 13, 811 players.
Coming in second in the regional comparison was Madrid and its environs, where 17% of the self-excluded players last year came from. From the capital and the areas around it, a total of 9,591 players excluded themselves from gambling, marking a 13.1% increase from 2019.
The Balearic Islands autonomous community on the other hand recorded the largest increase in players who registered themselves on the RGIAJ in 2020 with 1,183 players, after a 56.9% growth compared to the previous year.
Making Sense of the 12% Increase of Self Excluded Players in Spain
Such an increase doesn’t necessarily mean that the rate of problem gambling in the country is getting out of hand but rather, it shows that there’s more awareness of the RGIAJ register and more players are coming forward to take control of their gambling.
On that note, let’s not forget that Spain has one of the lowest rates of problem gambling in the world. According to a research paper that was published by the country’s highly acclaimed University Carlos III of Madrid (UC3M) in October 2020, only 0.3% of gamblers in Spain qualify as problem gamblers – in a country where 85% of the population engages in one gambling activity or another.
Moreover, given that Spain’s Ministry for Consumer Affairs has been keen on introducing tighter controls on the gambling industry, it is only right that more players are also taking the initiative to enlist themselves on the self-exclusion register. Some of the planned changes include revising the regulatory fees for operators and enforcing advertising restrictions that were implemented late last year by a new royal decree.
The RGIAJ is Working but There’s Still a Long Road Ahead
Even though the RGIAJ seems to be serving its purpose, there are still a couple of teething problems that make the national-self exclusion register less effective than it should be. For one, the registry only offers data about people who decide to take a break from taking part in gambling activities on a state level. Currently, the national RGIAJ database isn’t connected to the Comunidades Autonomas (CCAA), the self-exclusion registry that serves land-based casinos.
To date, only one region, the Castilla-La Mancha area is connected to the two registries so that players can both exclude themselves on a national and state level. This, therefore, leaves a loophole for gamblers to partake in gambling even after registering themselves on the RGIAJ. Some players end up circumnavigating the restriction because the RGIAJ only prevents access to online gambling portals, but excluded players can still gamble in brick-and-mortar casinos in the states because they are usually an autonomous entity.
Likewise, players at the state level who register themselves on the CCAA registry will not be able to gamble at land-based casinos within their regions but nothing is stopping them from going to a different region to get back to gambling.
However, this issue of circumvention of self-exclusions will be fixed soon as regional government and central government officials joined forces last September and agreed on integrating the regional and national self-exclusion registers. That way, the country can offer better player protection especially for those who are taking steps to exclude themselves from gambling.