Recent months has seen an increase in the number of online gaming sites being launched in Spain (particularly online bingo and poker). But while the online gaming phenomenon took hold in the US and UK some time ago, it is only recently that the numbers of online players in Spain has increased, allowing companies the confidence to delve into the Spanish markets.
So what are the reasons for the recent increase in the number of players and game site launches?
The main reason is seen as the increase in availability of broadband across the country. Previously those with only a modem dial up connection would find it both expensive and frustrating playing a game which required a download and a sufficiently fast continuous connection. As dial-up in Spain is charged per minute, and with Telefonica (the worlds 6th largest telecoms company) previously being the sole provider of fixed telephone lines, and therefore its pricing mechanisms, you can see how people have been put off from using the internet, let alone delving into the world of online gaming.
However, times are changing. The liberalization of the fixed-line telecommunications service market in Spain was completed in 1998. Spain (9th in the table for European broadband coverage) with penetration just slightly lower than the European average is now ahead of countries such as France and Germany. Recent European rulings, together with large EU subsidies (23 million euros grant plus 120 million euros in interest free loans) are encouraging healthy competition for broadband provision in both large towns and remote locations. More and more companies are providing various means of gaining high speed access to the internet and the prices are tumbling rapidly as competition heats up. Nortel and Vodafone Spain have also recently demonstrated their mobile telephony at 3.6 Megabits per second at the 3GSM World Congress 2006 in Barcelona. At these rates customers will have access to higher speed broadband than the majority of European fixed broadband connections operating at 2 Megabits per second, providing a further option for those wishing to delve into the world of mobile gaming via laptop, palmtop or phone.
Security is seen as another main reason why players previously stayed away. Whereas before, out-dated computer systems with a dial-up connection would pose a security risk to those wishing to use online payments methods (a necessity if you wish to play and pay immediately), the latest computers, coupled with a broadband connection and inbuilt firewall software are far more secure. This provides users with more confidence when making payments to online bingo or poker sites.
And what of this new found confidence in the internet and online games. Confidence in the games is certainly another reason why the numbers of players have recently increased. Users in Spain were previously seen as cautious and unwilling to part with their hard earned cash. Numbers of people signing up to the games were high, the interest was certainly there, but actual cash deposits were low. It would seem that any spare money for such recreation was usually spent on the local or national lottery games such as El Gordo or ONCE. Players may have been waiting for the UK and US markets to take hold, therefore providing tried and tested games and technology, giving the Spanish more confidence in such systems.
Confidence in making payments online has also increased as companies such as UKash offer facilities for making deposits to online gaming sites without the need for credit card. Some sites also offer a system that allows bank transfer directly to the game site.
So what does this all mean for a company wishing to launch online bingo or poker in Spain?
At present Spain is seen as an untapped market, but with a population of over 40 million and with internet access currently available to over 25% of homes, coupled with growth in broadband connections of some 70% for 2005, you can see the potential both now and for growth and money making in the future. With land-based bingo being very popular in Spain, (there are around 468 licensed bingo halls) you would guess that the transition to online bingo will be inevitable, as it has been in countries like the UK. And with the Spanish being more attracted to skill and knowledge games, the transition to online poker will also be more forthcoming.
And what of the current demographic of current online players?
Well, http://www.juegabingoya.com reports that its bingo network is growing at a rate of 30% per month. The average age of bingo players being around 35 and, interestingly, 67% of players making cash deposits are male.
So with improvements in computer systems, more broadband connections, better game quality and payment methods, growth in confidence is only natural, and it won’t be long before more Spanish internet users are attracted to the prospect of winning cash prizes at online bingo or online poker.