The Gambling Law Review: Portugal

Overview

i Definitions

Under Decree-Law 422/89 (the Portuguese Gaming Law), games of fortune and chance are defined as those in which the result is contingent wholly or mainly on chance. Chance is the dominant factor for the purpose of this definition.

The same definition of games of fortune and chance exists in Decree-Law No. 66/2015 (the Online Gaming Regime), but the consideration element was introduced with games of fortune and chance defined as those that entail the spending of a certain amount in cash and whose result is contingent due to being based exclusively or mainly on chance. Therefore, both consideration and chance elements must be present for an activity to be regarded as gambling.

Forms of gambling include the following types and definitions:

  1. social state games, including the Euromillions, the National Lottery, scratch cards, pari-mutuel soccer betting (Totobola), Totogolo, Totoloto and Joker, as well as games of the same nature organised by other EU or EEA Member States;
  2. pari-mutuel horse racing and sports betting – those in which the percentage of the handle is reserved to prizes to be distributed who have bet on the correct result of the bet, and the remaining to the organiser of the bet;
  3. land-based fixed odds sports betting – those that require the physical presence of the bettor;
  4. online gambling (fixed odds sports betting, pari-mutuel and fixed odds horse racing, games of fortune and chance, bingo and poker) – those in which any mechanism, equipment or system that permits the production, storing or transmitting of documents, data or information and that are practiced remotely, through means that are, inter alia, electronic, IT, telematic or interactive; and
  5. land-based bingo.

'Fixed odds bets' are defined as those in which the bettor plays against the organiser (bookmaker) on the basis of a value equal to or greater than 1.00 (quota), with up to two decimal places, previously defined or conventionally fixed, being the value associated with each of the possible odds for each bet depending on the likelihood of occurrence of a particular type of result.

'Sports bets' is defined as the placement of a wager associated with the forecast of a certain type of result of a previously identified competition or sports event, the outcome of which is uncertain, and it is not dependent upon the will of the punters.

Other games include contests, tombola, raffles, advertising contests, knowledge contests and quizzes. They are defined as ancillary forms or other forms of games offered to the public in which the hope of winning rests on the chance and skill of the player, or only on chance, and the award of prizes with economic value.

Despite no legal statute expressly providing the distinction, doctrine and jurisprudence, authorities conclude that speculative and hedging financial products (e.g., insurance and contracts for difference) are not within the category of gambling products, and, hence, gaming laws and regulations are not applicable to them.

ii Gambling policy

Gambling in Portugal goes back to Middle Ages when there were casas de tavolagem gambling houses run by gariteiros.

They were prohibited during the kingship of Afonso IV (1325–1357), with repression always being the government approach between then and 1927, with consequences as hard as the death penalty. At the end of the 17th century, lotteries were introduced, but their permanent status was only implemented in 1946.

Passion for gambling has always existed in Portugal, despite the evolution in the way that the state considered the activity from repression to tolerance and, at a later stage, legalisation. The 19th century, in line with the European trend of 'summer seasons' saw the increase of gambling activities, particularly in the coastal areas.

In 1927, after several years of public discussion and proposals, the first Gaming Law was enacted. The implementation of this Law (Decree No. 14463, of 3 December 1927) entails a 'necessary evil' concept approach and a response acknowledging the fact that the repressive laws could not fight the activity. It intended also to reduce illegal gambling, protect the gambling stakeholders and minimise the externalities of the gambling activity, safeguarding the family's interests.

Land-based casino gaming can only be conducted in defined areas as provided in Decree-Law No. 422/89, of 2 December 1989 (the current Portuguese Gaming Law), which states as public policy the following:

  1. reserving gaming to the state with limited liberalisation through concessions for gaming areas;
  2. profitability of the activity;
  3. development of the entertainment and tourism equipment; and
  4. attracting tourists.

With the advent of the internet and the proliferation of online gambling offers, the Portuguese state, in line with the EU Directives, enacted in 2015 the Legal Framework of Online Gaming and Betting, which in its preamble enshrines an evolution of public policy to:

  1. bring operators and players to legality;
  2. foster the sense of community and responsible gambling;
  3. protect minors and the most vulnerable persons;
  4. avoid fraud and money laundering activities;
  5. prevent criminal behaviour;
  6. safeguard the integrity of sports, combating corrupted betting schemes and match-fixing;
  7. enhance competition with the introduction of an open licensing process; and
  8. ensure that the operators are suitable and have the financial capacity for operations.

iii State control and private enterprise

The general principle is that the operation of land-based gambling is reserved to the state and can only be operated by private entities through a concession as gambling is regulated at a national level, despite the existence of different government entities that can decide on concessions (central government for the mainland concessions and regional government for the regional concessions) and even concession terms for two autonomous regions (Azores and Madeira). In this sense, there are exclusive concessions for defined gaming zones within the country.

Social state games (including the Euromillions, the National Lottery, scratch cards, pari-mutuel soccer betting (Totobola), Totogolo, Totoloto and Joker) and land-based sports betting are exclusively operated by Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa.

As to online gaming, there is no maximum number of available licences, and any entity that fulfils the licensing criteria may obtain a licence. This includes those incorporated as joint-stock companies or similar companies with headquarters in an EU or EEA Member State bound by administrative tax and anti-money laundering regulations; such companies are required to register a branch in Portugal.

As at March 2022, there are 11 licences for fixed odds online sports betting and 14 for games of fortune and chance (some with a single games licence (e.g., poker) or single type (e.g., slot games) and others authorised to have more than one game or type).

iv Territorial issues

Gaming (land-based and online) is regulated and licensed nationally by the state, with the sole exception of the competency of the two autonomous regions (Azores and Madeira) to award land-based gaming concessions under their statutes.

The rules for bingo and social state games cover the entire country.

As to ancillary forms and other forms of games (contests, tombola, raffles, advertising contests, knowledge contests and quizzes) the municipalities have competencies to license the activity, following the enactment of Decree-Law No. 98/2018.

v Offshore gambling

It is illegal for operators located in other countries to offer internet gambling to consumers located in Portugal without obtaining a licence.

The Gambling Inspection and Regulation Service (SRIJ) has the power to block illegal websites. The offer of games in Portugal from overseas servers is considered a crime (see Section IV ).

Before referring to the Public Prosecutor for criminal investigation, the SRIJ may notify illegal operators to cease the activity or notify the internet service providers to block the websites that are illegally offering gambling.

Legal and regulatory framework

i Legislation and jurisprudence

In addition to the statutes set out below, there are several regulations, instructions and guidelines, covering type of games, the technical standards of the gaming systems, gaming machines and certification providers, among other things.

Land-based

Casinos

  1. Decree-Law No. 422/89 (the Portuguese Gaming Law) – the legal framework of the operation of casino games;
  2. Law No. 83/2017 – establishes combating money laundering and terrorism financing;
  3. Law No. 8/2006 – establishes the conditions of hiring and access to the casino dealers; and
  4. Order No. 50/2012 – specifies the regulated professions in the tourism industry.

Bingo

  1. Decree-Law No. 31/2011, with the amendments introduced by Decree-Law No. 65/2015 – approves the regulatory framework for the operation of bingo outside the casino areas; and
  2. Order No. 128/2011 – regulates the operation of bingo outside the casino areas.

Others

  1. Decree-Law No. 310/2002 – approves the operation of entertainment machines (non-gaming).

Online

  1. Decree-Law No. 66/2015 (with several amendments, the latest introduced by Law No. 2/2020) – legal framework for the operation of online gambling and betting.

ii The regulator

The SRIJ is the regulatory authority empowered to control, inspect and regulate gambling activities in casinos and bingo halls (territorial concessions), as well as remote gambling (fixed odds sports betting and mutual or fixed odds horse race betting) through any electronic, computer-based, telematic or any other interactive means (online gambling and betting).

The SRIJ is part of Turismo de Portugal, IP and is subject to the authority of the Secretary of State for Tourism. The SRIJ has technical and functional autonomy, and is bestowed with public authority powers to carry out its function.

Social state games (such as the National Lottery) and land-based sports betting are exclusively operated by Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa, under the authority of the Ministry for Labour, Solidarity and Social Security.

iii Remote and land-based gambling

Both land-based and remote gambling are authorised to be operated in Portugal, although there is a clear distinction between bricks-and-mortar (premises-based) and remote (online) gambling in Portugal.

The main differences between these lie on the following aspects:

  1. the legal regimes for land-based gambling and online gambling are separate;
  2. land-based gambling can only be operated through a concession within a territorial gaming zone whereas online gambling can be operated through a licence within the entire territory;
  3. concessions for land-based gambling are limited in number whereas licences to operate online gambling do not have any limit;
  4. concessions for land-based gambling are granted for a long period of time (up to 40 years) whereas the licences to operate online gambling have a term of three years renewable;
  5. taxes imposed on land-based gambling and online gambling are different (see Section V); and
  6. more obligations are imposed on the concessionaires for land-based casinos when compared to online gambling licensees.

iv Land-based gambling

The operation and practice of games of fortune and chance can only take place in casinos that are located in permanent or temporary gaming zones, with the exceptions of the operation of games in vessels or aircraft and in slot machine halls.

Under the Portuguese Gaming Law, there are 10 gaming zones: Algarve, Azores, Espinho, Estoril, Figueira da Foz, Funchal (Madeira Islands), Porto Santo (Madeira Islands), Póvoa do Varzim, Tróia and Vidago-Pedras Salgadas. From these, only Porto Santo does not have a concession to operate casino games.

Under the authorisation of the government, land-based concessionaires may operate bingo in separate rooms, provided that they are located in the municipality where their casinos are authorised to be operated.

Bingo rooms that are not located in the casinos are also subject to concession and can only be operated in locations previously authorised by the government.

Land-based betting shops can be operated by franchisees of Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa (SCML), which has an exclusive right, and are restricted to social state games and to fixed odds sports betting run by the SCML.

v Remote gambling

Land-based casino games can only be offered within casino premises.

As to online, there is no legal provision for the purpose of defining where the wager is deemed to take place.

Nonetheless, considering that the Online Gaming Regime applies to the entire territory of Portugal and that entities licensed under that regime can offer and accept wagers, it can be concluded that the games can only be offered by the licensed operators within the Portuguese territory.

Licensed operators are obliged to have a website identified with '.pt' to operate the online games and bets, to which all access is made from a location within the Portuguese territory or using player accounts registered in Portugal.

Finally, if the operators licensed in Portugal offer internet gambling to consumers outside the country, they may be breaching the laws of those countries, which may jeopardise their licences in Portugal. There are, however, Portuguese licence holders that also hold licences in Malta and Curaçao and in other jurisdictions.

vi Ancillary matters

Only authorised entities may certify the game systems of online licensees.

Manufacturing, importation, exhibition, transportation and trading of gaming equipment and associated tools for the practice of games must be authorised by the Gambling Inspection and Regulation Service. Both the certifying entities and the gaming equipment manufacturers are registered by Turismo de Portugal, IP after being authorised.

There is no official licence or licensing process, and, therefore, it is only an administrative authorisation that is granted on a case-by-case basis.

Under the Portuguese Gaming Law, directors of casinos, directors of games, parties that have been punished with a prison sentence of more than six months for an intentional crime or parties that have been punished for one of the crimes laid out in the Portuguese Gaming Law cannot be members of social bodies of land-based concessionaires.

There is a specific regime that must be followed to become a pit boss, a chief supervisor and a dealer, among other casino careers.

In the online space, there are certain duties imposed upon the 'intermediary network services providers', which include the blocking or interrupting of communications, denying access and removing access of the illegal operators and players who bet on their illegal platforms.

vii Financial payment mechanisms

Payments can only be made in euros or other currencies that accept the conversion into the euro. Most credit cards can be used for the online gambling activities. The use of cryptocurrencies and tokens is not authorised and is yet to be regulated in the Portuguese gaming space.

The licensing process

i Application and renewal

Land-based

In line with the legal and regulatory framework in force, casino gaming concessions are awarded by a public tender for each gaming zone, after which an administrative concession contract establishes the obligations of the concessionaire. It may be an open tender or a limited tender.

The criteria to award are defined in each tender, but not by law. The location of the casino, the suitability and financial capacity, the amount of the premium to be offered, the cultural and entertainment promotion activities offered and what the concessionaires can offer in terms of tourism development, among other factors, play an important role in choosing who will be awarded the concession. There is only one concession per gaming zone, despite it being possible for a company to hold more than one concession or to have more than one casino within a gaming zone.

Bingo halls can also be operated under a concession agreement, and there is no limitation on the number of concessions stated in the law. The criteria to award a franchise to land-based betting shops are established by the SCML, and there is no expressed limit on the number of betting shops that may be operated.

Online

As with land-based gambling, the right to operate online games and bets is reserved to the state.

The criteria to award an online licence are based on the type of company, its place of incorporation and its financial and technical capacity.

Only joint-stock companies or similar companies with headquarters in an EU or EEA Member State bound by administrative tax and anti-money laundering regulations, and that are required to register a branch in Portugal, can apply for a licence.

The applicant must be involved in the operation of games and wagering. Companies licensed for those activities in other European countries must obtain a licence in Portugal.

To obtain a licence, the applicants must:

  1. regularise their taxes in Portugal or in the state where they have their headquarters;
  2. be suitable, with technical, financial and economic capacity; and
  3. submit an outline of the game's technical systems that follows best practices in terms of software and technology design, including the elements listed in Article 13 of the Online Gaming Regime.

In relation to suitability, the Regime states that entities declared bankrupt by a court, entities that are already in a process of liquidation and entities under special regimes of recovery or revival are not suitable. The same applies to entities that are prohibited from taking part in commerce.

With regard to crimes or administrative infringements, entities that have committed two serious administrative infringements under the Online Gaming Regime may be considered unsuitable.

Entities that have been sentenced for any of the crimes listed in Article 14 of the Online Gaming Regime are not suitable. Such crimes include: fraud, including computer fraud; intentional bankruptcy; the promotion, organisation or illegal operation of games of fortune and chance or social state games (including the violation of exclusives granted by the state); corruption; and money laundering.

Adequate technical capacity is achieved by having an appropriate and certified workforce with experience in the different types of technology used by the technical system of the game.

Adequate financial and economic capacity is indicated by financial autonomy, which is calculated by the last financial year's balance: own funds divided by net assets multiplied by 100, with a minimum ratio of 35 per cent.

The process entails four steps: submission of documents, certification of the technical system of the game, homologation of the technical system of the game and issuance of the licence.

Upon the issuance of the license, two bonds shall be granted: one in the amount of €500,000 to secure the performance of the legal obligations (e.g., payment of the prizes to the patrons) and other in the amount of €100,000 to guarantee the payment of the special tax. It is also when the licence is issued that the responsible gaming policy must be submitted. Licensing fees are also paid in this final state.

The online licences are valid for a term of three years renewable.

ii Sanctions for non-compliance

Land-based

The breach of the duties by the land-based gaming concessionaires may entertain administrative and misdemeanour liability.

It is considered an administrative infringement the breach of the legal and contractual obligations entailing a fine and the termination of the concession contract. The directors are jointly liable for the payment of the fines, unless sufficient evidence is provided that they were not involved in the acts that caused the breach. Concessionaires are jointly liable for the penalties imposed on their employees.

Under the Portuguese Gaming Law, there are certain acts practised by the gaming concessionaires that are conducive to the termination of the concession contract or suspension of the operation of the casino, inter alia: evasion of gaming revenue (skimming); breach of the share capital and own capital legal requirements; assignment; abandonment or defective operation of the games or of the essential activities considered to be contractual obligations; repeated breach gaming law; failure to comply with the obligations assumed; and delay in payment of taxes, contributions or social security obligations.

Termination and the suspension of concession contracts is decided by the Council of Ministers. Once the concession contract is terminated on these grounds, the state is entitled to all assets that can revert under the concession contract, as well as to the ownership of the concession assets without compensation.

Fines up to €25,000 may be imposed whenever the concessionaires breach the following rules and obligations concerning:

  1. own capital;
  2. investment obligations;
  3. contempt of the supervision of the state;
  4. operation of the games;
  5. illegal access to the gaming rooms;
  6. illegal issuance of access cards;
  7. loans, when practiced by the governing bodies, employees or agents;
  8. acceptance of cheques and foreign exchange activities; and
  9. absence of the director of games.

Online

The Online Gaming Regime is more comprehensive, including in regard to sanctions.

The sanctions foreseen are of criminal, misdemeanour and administrative natures.

Criminal sanctions may be imposed to the illegal operation of online gambling and betting, online gambling and betting fraud and contempt. Additional sanctions, such as a ban for a period of no longer than five years and the publication of the conviction, may be also imposed.

The acts constituting administrative infringements are divided into the following categories with the correspondent fines:

  1. very serious offences (some 34 infringements including, e.g., offering fixed-odds sports bets on sports, competitions or sporting events not included in the list approved by the regulator; failing to comply with the rules of execution established by the regulator; transferring of the licence without prior authorisation; and failing to pay the players the prize announced) – fines between €50,000 and €1 million, or between €50,000 and 10 per cent of the turnover of the offender for the financial year immediately prior to that of the sentencing decision, if in excess of €1 million;
  2. serious offences (some 21 typified infringements including, e.g., permitting minors to engage in online gaming and betting; failing to comply with the technical capacity or the financial autonomy rules) – fines between €5,000 and €50,000, or between €5,000 and 5 per cent of the turnover of the offender for the financial year immediately prior to that of the sentencing decision, if in excess of € 50,000; and
  3. minor administrative offences (some 20 typified infringements, including, e.g., failing to draw up a plan or to adopt measures to comply with the principles of responsible gaming; failing to appoint a manager responsible for the operating of the online gambling and betting) – fines between €5,000 and 0.5 per cent of the turnover of the offender for the financial year immediately prior to that of the sentencing decision, if in excess of € 5,000.

Reprimands may be imposed when the infringement has been brought to an end by the time a decision is handed down in the proceedings and no losses have arisen, particularly for the players, taking into account the other circumstances in which the infringement was committed, the offender may be penalised with a simple reprimand.

Additional sanctions may also be imposed and include the suspension of the licence to operate, among other penalties.

Without prejudice to the above-mentioned fines, the regulator may revoke the online licences in certain cases, which includes transferring the licence without prior authorisation when the licensee breaches in a serious and
reiterated manner the legal or regulatory provisions aimed at preventing money laundering and the financing of terrorism, or when, in a two-year period, the operator is convicted by final decision of the commission of two very serious administrative offences or four serious administrative offences.

Wrongdoing

The penalties for offering unlawful gambling are laid out in the Portuguese Gaming Law, which sets the sanctions applicable to a significant number of unlawful gaming-related activities.

Under that Law, there are different types of sanctions for certain activities, as follows:

  1. Whoever, by any form, operates games of fortune and chance outside legally authorised places or directs those activities will be punished with up to two years in prison or with a fine. These penalties are increased by one-third when minors are found in places where the illegal operation takes place.
  2. Whoever fraudulently plays the games or adjusts the likelihood of winning through error, mistake or use of any equipment is punished under the same terms of the fraud crime (up to three years in prison or a fine). The same applies to the forgery of chips and their use, which is punished under the same terms as the crime of counterfeitting currency (three to 12 years in prison).

The Online Gaming Regime also stipulates the following crimes:

  1. Whoever, by any form and without being authorised, operates, promotes, organises or allows the operation of online games or bets, or makes them available in Portugal from servers located overseas, is punished with up to five years in prison or with a fine; and
  2. Whoever tampers with the rules and processes established for online games and bets (e.g., by introducing, modifying, deleting or suppressing data, or by any means interferes with the treatment of data), with the intention of gaining fortune or chance, is punished with between three and eight years in prison or with a fine.

Gambling concessionaires and licensees are not considered financial institutions for the purposes of anti-money laundering and similar financial services' regulatory requirements. Nonetheless, they are subject to requirements as non-financial entities under Law 83/2017.

Under this regime, the land-based concessionaires are obliged to:

  1. require identification from patrons and, if applicable, from the respective effective beneficial entities; this identification shall be undertaken when they enter the premises, acquire cards for games and on payout;
  2. only issue, in the gaming areas, cheques made out with the name of the payees; and
  3. undertake all duties mentioned in Section III of Chapter IV of Law 83/2017, including the duty of identification and due diligence, knowing the beneficial owners, risk management, identification of politically exposed persons and reporting suspicious activities.

Remote gambling licensees are obliged to identify patrons under the Online Gaming Regime.

The entities that pay prizes on bets and lotteries must identify the winners when the prize is over €2,000.

Taxation

i Land-based

Land-based casino gambling operations, including poker and bingo operated by casino concessionaires, are subject to a special gaming tax.

This tax varies between 4.5 per cent and 40 per cent of the casino's GGR and is linked to the games offered and to the gaming zone where the casino gambling operations are authorised to take place. In addition to this tax, tourism contributions may be established in the concession contract to oblige the concessionaires to allocate an amount of 3 per cent or greater of the previous year's GGR.

Pari-mutuel horse racing is subject to a special gaming tax of between 15 per cent and 30 per cent of GGR.

There is a 25 per cent stamp duty levied on bingo halls. In addition, a stamp duty of 4.5 per cent is levied on the handle in state social games (such as the National Lottery) and land-based sports betting. Stamp duty at a tax rate of 20 per cent is levied on prizes exceeding €5,000.

ii Online

There is a special online gaming tax that is levied differently based on the type of gambling, as follows:

  1. games of fortune and chance: special gaming tax of 25 per cent on the GGR;
  2. fixed odds sports betting and horse racing: 8 per cent on the handle;
  3. pari-mutuel horse racing: 25 per cent on the GGR;
  4. non-banked games (e.g., poker tournaments and bingo): 25 per cent on the vigorish; and
  5. fixed odds sports betting and fixed odds or pari-mutuel horse racing when players play against each other (betting exchange): 35 per cent on the vigorish.

Advertising and marketing

Under Decree-Law 330/90 (the Advertisement Law), advertising of gambling games must be socially responsible with the purpose of protecting minors and other at-risk groups. Advertising must also foreground the entertainment aspect of the games and must not disregard non-gamblers. It must not advertise games as easy ways of obtaining a profit, success, social recognition or special skills, and must not encourage excessively playing games or placing bets.

It is expressly forbidden to advertise games and bets directly to minors or to use minors in marketing. It is also forbidden to advertise within schools or in places located within 250 metres of schools or other venues frequented by minors, with the sole exception of social state games.

Advertising loans cannot be used in the marketing of casino games.

On 24 April 2020, a code of advertising good practice was enacted by the regulator in which several recommendations were made in line with the Advertisement Law, including the following:

  1. restrictions on advertising gambling on television and radio between 7am and 10.30pm, and in the 30 minutes before or after a programme directed at minors or young adults;
  2. information on problem gambling charities that support players should be displayed;
  3. guidance such as 'be responsible, play with moderation' should be included; and
  4. messages such as 'bet now' or similar messages that create a sense of urgency should not be included.

The recommendations apply to all forms of advertising, including on social media.

The year in review

In 2021, the impact of covid-19 continued to affect in particular the land-based casino space despite some signs of recovery in the third quarter of 2021. The GGR for that period decreased 1.9 per cent when compared to 2020, which was already a negative year for the industry.2

There are no official figures of the GGR for the full year of 2021. However, the first three quarters recorded an amount of €85 million, being 82.5 per cent derived from slot machines.3

On 3 May 2021, an article was published in daily newspaper Público stating that, given the financial harm to casino concessionaires due to the several state of emergency decrees announced since the beginning of pandemic, the government was considering redeeming those concessions and assuming all of the concessionaires' rights and obligations. Two days later, the Ministry of Economy announced that the concessionaires would be exempt from the annual contribution under the concession contracts for the rest of 2021 and the whole of 2022.

After the decision of the government to extend the concessions of Estoril (which includes Lisbon) and Figueira da Foz – due to expiry on 31 December 2020 and extended the prior year until 31 December 2021, it turned out to not be sufficient, and the government decided in November 2021 to extend the two concessions for one more year – until 31 December 2022. The government also decided on the extension of the Algarve, Espinho and Póvoa do Varzim concessions for two more years until 31 December 2025. Public health and economic reasons were used as the grounds for these extensions. The terms are similar to those imposed in the previous extension and are intended to rebalance the financial condition of the concessionaires strongly affected by the pandemic.

In the online gaming space, we have seen the following trends4 emerge considering solely the first three quarters of 2021:

  1. GGR for gambling and sports betting of €367.4 million was recorded, which represented more than the full year of 2020's recorded GGR of €336.3 million. When compared to the same period of 2020, 2021 represented a growth of 64 per cent in GGR;
  2. fixed odds online sports betting saw a growth in GGR of 90 per cent,5 from €97.8 million (2020) to €186.3 million (2021), and the online gambling of 44 per cent, from €125.4 million (2020) to €181.1 million (2021);
  3. sports betting recorded €1.025 billion turnover (from €462.7 million for the same period of 2020) and online gambling €5.04 billion (from €3.47 billion for the same period of 2020);
  4. the number of new registered players6 rose from 444,500 in 2020 to 643,600 in 2021;
  5. there was a significant increase in the number of self-excluded players, and approximately 40,000 more players applied for that mechanism in 2021 than in 2020; and
  6. there was one more online licence issued in 2021.

On 1 April 2021, it was announced that Entain (formerly GVC Holdings, owner of brands such as bwin and Ladbrokes), had finalised a deal to acquire the Portuguese platform bet.pt.

With regard to enforcement, in the final three quarters of 2021, the SRIJ made 48 notifications to shut down illegal websites and blocked 131 websites. No cases were passed on to the Public Prosecution office for criminal investigation.

On 16 November 2021, the SRIJ announced the opening of the procedure to approve and regulate the operation of a new game called 'Crash', inviting all to submit opinions and suggestions.

Outlook

We understand that there was some interest in reforming the Portuguese Gaming Law, enacted in 1989, since its last amendment occurred in 2018. Notwithstanding the enactment of the Online Gaming Regime, the legal model for the industry is still based on the first Portuguese Gaming Law of 1927.

Although the gaming industry has seen major developments in recent years, it is time to significantly reform the model to take advantage of the tourism boom Portugal has experienced and to develop other tourism areas. For instance, a Las Vegas-style tourism and entertainment destination in the Beja Airport in Alentejo (seen as something of a white elephant) could be used as an entry point for the millions of tourists visiting Portugal each year.

The Decree-Law that extended the concessions has opened the way for the possibility of the concessionaires of gaming zones to request, until the end of 2022, an assessment of the financial rebalance of the contract in the cases where the measures granted turn out to be insufficient.

Despite what is provided in the Decree-Law, the possibility of a tender for the Estoril and Figueira gaming zones may occur during the course of 2022.

Footnotes

1 Pedro Cortés is a managing partner at Lektou.

2 The comparison is only between the first three quarters, unless stated otherwise. See SRIJ, Report of the Third Quarter of 2021 of the land-based gambling. Available at https://www.srij.turismodeportugal.pt/fotos/editor2/estatisticas/Estat%C3%ADstica_territorial_3T_2021.pdf.

3 SRIJ. Report of the Third Quarter of 2021 of the online gambling and betting. Available at https://www.srij.turismodeportugal.pt/fotos/editor2/estatisticas/Estat%C3%ADstica_online_3T_2021.pdf.

4 idem.

5 In 2020, several sports competitions were suspended during the period analysed due to the pandemic.

6 A player may be registered with more than one platform.

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