The Santiago Bernabéu Stadium in Madrid, Spain, home to the four-time FIFA World Cup champion Real Madrid soccer team, is currently getting a massive facelift. $800 million is being invested in renovating and updating the 74-year-old icon, and reports began surfacing last week that the new facilities might include a casino and possibly other gambling options when the upgrade is completed. While the idea sounds good in theory, it appears the news was simply the stuff that makes for good reading but which has no foundation. As Spain continues to raise concerns over the marriage between sports and sports gambling, it shouldn’t be too surprising.
Real Madrid’s Home Won’t Feature Casino
Zak Garner-Purkis of Forbes reportedly contacted the team directly to find out the truth behind the rumor and was told “categorically” that it isn’t true. He adds, “It would have been a strange move; installing a purpose-built gambling venue ahead of a season when betting sponsors could be potentially banned in La Liga.” Making the rumor more attractive was the fact that the rumor forecast as much as $140 million in additional gambling revenue for the stadium each year.
The thought of adding a casino to a stadium, especially one as renowned as Santiago Bernabéu, seems logical, especially if it includes a sportsbook. This is a concept that has already begun to find support elsewhere, with a sportsbook planned for the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C., and a concept being floated in Georgia that would combine sports and casino entertainment in one venue, as well. Allegiant Stadium, home to the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders, has also been given preliminary approval for a casino. With both Caesars Entertainment and San Manuel Casino having signed on as founding partners, it would be expected that any Vegas venue includes some form of gambling.
Spain Pumps the Brakes on Gambling
Across the globe, and especially in Europe, there has been an attempt to break up the relationship between sports and gambling, despite increased interest emerging in the latter. Countries such as Italy and the UK have implemented bans on the type of advertising gambling operators are allowed to pursue with sports teams, media outlets, and more, and Spain is joining the club. New gambling ad rules that were implemented last year are hurting sports clubs and gaming operators and will likely cause further losses.
Spain wants to reduce the visibility of gambling activity, including any form of publicity, that might be exposed to younger generations not yet able to place wagers. Harsh regulations are being introduced in spite of the fact that, per capita, Spain ranks at the bottom of the list in terms of gambling addiction among all countries.
Even the country’s gaming regulator, the Dirección General de Ordenación del Juego, admits that there is no problem. Still, the crackdown is coming and, while the Forbes article didn’t provide an explanation for why a casino won’t be included at Santiago Bernabéu, it’s likely that the current and restrictive approach to gaming in the country had something to do with it.