Spain has always enjoyed one of the most thriving tourism industries globally; by 2013, as a country, they had already registered more than 100 million international tourists. In 2019, that figure had bumped up to 125 million, and the Spanish tourism GDP was over 150 billion euros.
There are 627.7k tourism establishments within Spain, a figure which has been steadily growing since 2015. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the tourism industry in Spain accounts for a large percentage of jobs, with some 2.19 million people employed within the sector.
But what is it that brings so many tourists to Spain, and what might we see in the future?
We know that Spain offers tourists a taste sensation when it comes to cuisine. You can delight the senses in a range of seafood and meat dishes that are mind-blowing. Sports lovers will also be in their element since Spain is home to some top-class football teams.
But what you might not know is that Spain has a thriving and growing gambling economy. While you are in Spain, you can enjoy some of the most lavish land-based casinos as well as enjoy online slots, poker – and even bingo.
The First Casino
It’s always interesting to know when the first casino was built within the country. These establishments are usually erected to provide somewhere for the wealthy to play and attract more visitors. Not to mention a legal building where card games and other casino games are legal, regulated, and taxable.
The first casino was built in Spain in 1922, but it had almost 100 years of conversation before it was finally a reality. In 1814, the Baron of Benicassim had already been charged with promoting the casino. However, between the first mentions and the completion, the casino changed names and changed location. Finally, Real Casino Antiguo of Castello was built in Puerta del Sol.
It wasn’t too long after that Casino of Madrid on Calla Alcala followed and grew from 10 members to 1,000 at speed. Interestingly and apt for the time, there were reading rooms as well as gambling rooms at this establishment.
The First Tourists
The beginnings of tourism, as it originally was, and traveling to Spain began slowly in 1840. In this year, a small group of wealthy and educated English boys arrived and explored Spain. At the time, they said it wasn’t hospitable. Their accounts didn’t stop other travelers, though.
In 1841, Ramón Mesonero Romanos, a Spanish essayist, upon his return from Belgium, wrote that traveling touristsas could become a wellspring of wealth.
In his other thoughts, he also spoke about how Spain could improve their roads, good accommodations, hotels, and better manners. Foreign visitors were the primary focus of incipient government and commercial attention to tourism, both as sources of revenue and as a new class of consumer ambassadors.
In the 1870s, organized efforts to recruit foreign tourists developed in Spain, as they did in the booming resorts of Switzerland and France, despite the fact that Spain as a whole received far fewer international visitors.
Málaga, which had already established itself as a modest beach resort for Spaniards, launched an advertising effort in 1897 to recruit British and French soldiers stationed in adjacent Gibraltar and Tangier. In 1905, the Count of Romanones led a combination of liberal and conservative lawmakers to form the “National Commission to Promote Artistic and Recreational Excursions of the Foreign Public.”
Marketing initiatives by the Commission maintained the popular image of “sunny Spain,” but they also sparked interest in local culture and history. State assistance for historic repair and preservation had been in place since the mid-nineteenth century, but it acquired traction around 1900.
As the cement roads and easier traveling were gradually introduced, Spain became the place you wanted to be to enjoy some sun, delicious food, and new experiences. Including their stunning casinos.
Modern Casino Industry in Spain
Like most countries, Spain enjoys a mixture of online casinos and land-based ones. In 2020 the market saw Spain generate €850.7 million in GGR.
Spain is enjoying a year-on-year growth that sits over 10%; of course, the ease of online casinos and the rapid rate of better smartphones and the internet have a part to play. Online casino growth has seen massive growth globally, but what of land-based casinos?
The land-based casinos in Madrid are a huge source of entertainment for both tourists and locals alike. In 2011 the law changed, and gambling in Spain became more accessible and enjoyable. While Spain has had legal gambling for over 30 years and a hundred-year long relationship with casinos, Madrid has seen a flourish is in its land casinos and the tourism they bring.
There are several casinos around Madrid that are highly rated and draw many visitors from across the globe. Land-based casinos offer tourists somewhere to go, enjoy the hospitality of the country, and that all-important dressing-up for a night of glitz – which is precisely what you want when you head to a casino while you are a tourist in Spain.