The Portuguese gambling market is much-discussed in the trending news articles in the casino sector and has a perspective of becoming one of the biggest gambling jurisdictions in Europe.
José Eduardo Deus, a gambling inspector with 31 years of experience in the Portuguese casino market, has provided expert insight into the offline and online casino sectors in the country, talked about the peculiarities of the Portuguese gambling regulations and spoke about the history and development of the gambling industry in the country.
José, can you give an overview of the gambling market in Portugal?
There have been geographically delimited gambling areas since 1927, the year in which casino gambling was regulated for the first time in Portugal. This model, which is based on the Portuguese state granting gambling concessions through a public tender to private operators (gambling concession companies) has been maintained to this day. Currently, there are 12 land-based casinos in the country.
In 2015, legislation on online gambling was approved, and its exploration is based on the attribution of gambling licenses to private operators. In March of this year, there were already 15 entities authorized to explore online gambling in Portugal, corresponding to 26 licenses (11 licenses for sports betting with odds and 15 for online games of chance).
In early 2021, the offline gambling industry was struggling while iGaming was on the rise. In your opinion, what impact will the recent reopening of real casinos have in Portugal have? Do you believe that terrestrial gaming could return to the pre-COVID-19 level?
iGaming was already on the rise in Portugal before the start of the pandemic crisis. What the pandemic did was accelerate that process even more. With the forced closure of land-based casinos, there was naturally some player transfer from physical to online.
The most pessimistic will say that land-based casinos were beginning to recover only 6 years after the 2008 financial crisis, that is, in 2014. Therefore, and apparently, this pandemic crisis will also lead to a slow and difficult recovery.
The most optimistic say that physical gambling has a future because it is a different product from virtual casinos, very valuable because the human being is a social being and people are very eager to live again in a physical environment, interacting with others, and not confined at home to a cell phone or computer screen.
Of course, these conjectures are not unrelated to aspects such as the taxation to be applied to new concessions and/or gambling licenses, or the possible and necessary reinvention of physical casinos in the future, with more modern models.