Spain elects Pablo Bustinduy as new Minister of Consumer Affairs

The Government of Spain has announced Pablo Bustinduy‘s appointment as the new Minister of Social Rights, heading the Ministry of Consumer Affairs.

A member of the newly-formed Sumar Party, Bustinduy was among 22 new figures to be appointed by President Pedro Sanchez to the senior cabinet of Spain’s ‘Progressive Left’ coalition government.

Following the inconclusive results of a snap General Election called on 23 July, last week saw Pedro Sanchez secure a second term in office, as the Catalan Separatist Parties of Junts and Esquerra Republicana voted in favour of the PSOE forming its second coalition government (179 MPs in favour and 171 against).

The vote resulted in Parliament dismissing the Partido Popular’s calls for a further General Election, sparing the Spanish public a fourth trip to the polls since 2020.

Bustinduy will assume control of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs from Alberto Garzon, who, prior to the election, announced his retirement from frontline politics.

During Garzon’s tenure, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs undertook the ministerial oversight of Spanish gambling, initiating an immediate review of laws, standards, and practices. Upon taking office, Garzon had identified gambling, along with fatty foods and credit loans, as ‘predatory’ sectors urgently requiring reform to protect national consumers.

In 2020, Garzon enacted the “Royal Decree on Gambling Advertising”, revamping federal marketing laws by introducing a comprehensive ban on betting sponsorship across Spanish sports and establishing a new 1am-5am timeframe for broadcasting gambling adverts on media platforms.

Though approved by Parliament, Garzon’s Decree faced opposition from Spanish gambling and media and football stakeholders, who claimed that the Ministry of Consumer Affairs had not performed the formal processes necessary for the Decree to become federal law across Spain’s 17 autonomous communities.

Further changes are anticipated for Spanish gambling, as Parliament has this year passed the “Royal Decree on Responsible Gaming Environments“, drafted by Garzon as the next phase of Spanish  gambling’s regulatory overhaul.

The mandate aims to ensure that by 2024, Spanish gambling will have the most stringent surveillance of operators and market activities in Europe. Measures will include a new centralised player registry and the mandatory record-keeping of ‘risk profiles’ for customers under the age of 25.

Nonetheless, placed under consultation by the Directorate General of Spanish Gambling (DGOJ), doubts have surfaced regarding whether the technical requirements of the Decree can be achieved by Spanish authorities who are tasked with the stringent supervision of gambling activities and consumer engagements. 

In reaction to Pablo Bustinduy’s succession of Alberto Garzon, the Spanish Online Gambling trade association, Jdigital, has declared its willingness to cooperate. It stated: “Jdigital is ready to partner with the new minister, sharing our extensive knowledge of the online gambling sector to encourage a collaborative and continuous dialogue, and to address the regulatory challenges we all encounter. We strive to sustain our reputation as one of Europe’s most reliable and secure markets.

“Considering the complex and demanding legislative setting we have traversed, we must remind the regulatory body that integrating into the market and capitalising on the industry’s seasoned professionals and enterprises is essential for making decisions that are not only significant but also effective.”

Regulatory challenges include the comprehensive implementation of the RD to guarantee safer gambling environments, the approval of a unified deposit limit system among operators, the identification of gambling-related risk indicators, the tackling of fraud within the sector, and the suppression of illegal gambling activities. The new minister and his team will continually find an industry that is committed and ready to devise mutually advantageous initiatives.