Spain’s Anti-Gambling Minister of Consumer Affairs Officially Steps Down

son In tandem with the controversial return of Pedro Sanchez as the Prime Minister of Spain, a number of changes are being made to the federal government. One includes the planned resignation of anti-gambling advocate Alberto Garzón from the Ministry of Consumer Affairs (MCA).

Spain's former Minister of Consumer Affairs Alberto Garzon in a committee meeting
Spain’s former Minister of Consumer Affairs Alberto Garzon in a committee meeting. He has stepped down from his position, although his replacement may not be more gambling-friendly. (Image: Antena 3)

Pablo Bustinduy will be the new Minister of Social Rights, Consumption and Agenda 2030, a government entity that replaces the MCA. Garzón said goodbye last Friday to politics and his position leading the agency, a portfolio not exempt from controversy.

It’s too early to tell whether Bustinduy will follow in his predecessor’s footsteps or chart his own course. He returns to politics after a considerable delay, and his stance on many issues remains to be discovered.

The Changing of the Guard

In the past three years, Garzón implemented measures such as the regulation of audiovisual gambling advertising, limiting it to early morning hours or prohibiting sports clubs from displaying advertising for gambling operators on their kits.

Those anti-advertising policies are now under review by Spain’s Supreme Court. Online gaming association JDigital argues that they’re unconstitutional, and the Supreme Court has the debate on its agenda this week.

He also sought to place restrictions on online gaming deposits. Drafting new regulations this past September was one of his most recent efforts before leaving office.

Garzón also began working on a law last year that would regulate video game loot boxes. With his departure, this regulation and others remain pending.

In his exit speech, Garzón took credit for improving the entire gaming industry of Europe. He said last Friday that the MCA has “promoted a pioneering paradigm shift in Europe by promoting safer online gaming environments.”

Spain’s gaming regulator, the Directorate General for the Regulation of Gambling, reported directly to Garzón and the MCA. It’s unlikely that the changes in the ministerial layout will impact its operations.

Bustinduy’s Mixed Messages

Bustinduy has a degree in Political Sciences and Administration from the Complutense University of Madrid and a master’s degree in History and Political Thought from the Institute of Political Studies in Paris. He also has a doctorate in Philosophy from the New School for Social Research in New York.

The son of former Minister of Health and Consumer Affairs Ángeles Amador has been a professor at different universities and, from 2016 to 2019, was a deputy for Spain’s Podemos political party. He resigned from that position and left politics, deciding to return to his academic career. Returning to politics, he’s now a member of Spain’s Sumar, a left-wing to far-left political party.

It’s difficult to get a read on what stance he may take on various topics because of the mixed messages he sends. In a post on X (formerly Twitter) a few days ago, he said that he will dedicate his time to “expanding social rights, an essential condition of democracy, to defending a fair and sustainable consumption model and for Spain to be a reference for development and equality.

The emphasis on democracy is countered by previous comments he made, including his expression of support for the late dictator of Cuba, Fidel Castro. Journalist Pablo Planas, writing for media outlet Libertad Digital, even suggested that Bustinduy had been considered a “communist” by his former political party.

Bustinduy has also hinted at having an anti-capitalist slant. He’s used that term to describe himself in the past, and he also opposed the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership before it fizzled out under former POTUS Donald Trump.

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