Amid the current environment of deep distrust on peripheral euro economies, news that Spain was somehow rigging the online gaming licensing process could seriously hurt foreign investment flows. That is why, in an attempt probably to also make headlines and counter its negative impact, the Spanish ministry of Finance had little choice but to refer to the courts the information published by Bloomberg at the beginning of the week.
The Spanish government agency said Thursday it had initiated actions to bring to the courts Bloomberg and the reporter who wrote the story. According to the Bloomberg report, the ministry would have pushed foreign companies to pay €150 million upfront after having threatened them with penalties during the bidding period.
But Bloomberg got it wrong, Spain’s Finance ministry explained today. The payments were the result of closing debts with the tax department, something all companies presenting plans to be awarded a license need to do. The ministry noted that the companies had voluntarily submitted themselves to the new regulation and that this had been introduced by the former socialist government. There have been 265 bids.
Bloomberg said, too, that Spanish company Codere had been granted a preferential treatment. The feature mentioned that Codere was being advised by Equipo Económico, a firm linked to a brother of the Finance minister Cristóbal Montoro.
Again, Finance ministry sources denied the allegations and revealed Codere has in fact filed several complaints against online gaming concessions by the government. In a press release, the government said Bloomberg had put out the same information months ago. Minister Montoro indirectly criticised Bloomberg today saying that “some media outlets’ smear campaigns go on regardless the actual facts. I believe they damage democracy.”