Valencia’s High Court Revokes Ban on Slot Machines in Bars

The Regional Ministry of Health prohibited games of chance in bars and restaurants, but later added slot machines to the list, which provoked a furious reaction by the industry.

Reach of the Initial Order and Subsequent Correction

On December 22, the High Court of Justice of the Community of Valencia (TSJCV) issued a resolution suspending the ban on slot machines in bars and restaurants, which was applied a few weeks earlier. The judicial authority canceled the decision of the Regional Ministry of Health of Valencia, which prohibited the use of betting machines in hospitality establishments as part of the measures against the spread of Covid-19.

On December 5, the Ministry published a set of restrictions in response to the ongoing crisis in the autonomous community, which included a temporary prohibition on the operation of bars, buffets and self-service areas located in food and beverage establishments. However, the document was amended later to add a ban on the use of slot machines as well. In particular, section 9.3 of the document barred gambling and betting machines, as well as collective games, such as table games, billiards, darts, table football and similar in bars and restaurants.

Industry Representatives Object the Order

The document was appealed by the Association of Entrepreneurs of Recreational Machines of the Community of Valencia (Andemar) saying that the amendment was intended to correct a previous error and not to introduce an additional ban. On December 9, the Autonomous Secretary of Health, Isaura Navarro made a statement assuring the association that the resolution referred to table games only. Navarro added that  the health and safety measures with regard to slot machines were still regulated by the previous health protocol, which required players to use them with a mask and established their cleaning after each use.

However, on December 17 the resolution was extended over gambling machines as well, which provoked an angry response on behalf of the industry. The business accused the Ministry of “killing” the sector with the announced decision, as slot machines in particular are a substantial source of profit for many establishments in the region.

The High Court of Justice ruled that the objection was justified and indeed, the amendment introduced an entirely new set of restrictions. Moreover, the tribunal reminded that slot machines involve only one person at a time, hence their ban cannot be explained on health grounds. The decision permits the usage of slot machines and leaves in force the initial order outlawing games of chance in bars.

Last week, the government launched a public consultation on a draft Royal Decree regulating online gambling in Spain. The new regulation is intended to create a safer online gambling environment for consumers and especially young people.

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