Trying to regulate online gambling isn’t as straightforward as you may think. The fact that sites can operate from any country and be broadcast into the homes of players makes it very hard to prosecute sites without major initiatives being taken. Furthermore, depending on the size of the population, some countries just aren’t worth the operator’s time to go through the licensing process. IN the case of Portugal, attempts to legalize online gambling and tax it has not been as successful as everyone thought, causing the country to hit the panic button in 2018.
This isn’t to say that Portuguese residents don’t like gambling. In fact, they do love betting on sports, lottery, and casino games. However, the fact is that the country needs money, and it has opened the doors to outside companies acquiring licenses in order to generate more tax dollars.
Gambling Regulations in Portugal
Land-based gambling in Portugal is a very popular pastime. There are 10 land-based casinos in the country, and as it turns out, online gambling has been legal in Portugal for quite some time. However, online gambling is technically legal only for the government-run National Lottery. This license was originally designed for the sale of online lottery tickets but soon incorporated online slots and other games into the fold. Now, while the country has legalized online gambling, nothing was stopping offshore sites from attracting players from Portugal without any penalty, and without paying any tax dollars to the country.
The tourism business had relied on revenue from gambling to help fund initiatives, but that annual amount was in decline. The primary reason given for the drop in the budget was the offshore sites who were taking tax dollars away from the country via their online gambling sites. Also, the European Union was cracking down on member countries that had laws that were considered to be anti-union, and this government monopoly on online gaming in Portugal fit the criteria.
Finally, the government decided it had had enough, and started working on a way to regulate the industry. The result was a piece of legislation enacted in 2015, which was meant to start the process of offering multiple gaming licenses to offshore operators. However, initial reactions to the law were negative, as the tax rates proposed were outrageously high and prohibitive for most companies to do business legally in the country. With rates ranging from 8-16% for sports betting and 15-30% for other online games (based on turnover, not profit), many sites balked at the idea of applying for a license.
Many would consider this initiative to be a complete flop, with the majority of licenses simply being awarded to land-based casino operators. To make matters worse, the country continues to allow other sites to promote from offshore, rather than taking the steps countries like Italy took to make ISPs block these unlicensed sites. The country gave out only its 9th license in 2017, and many questions have been asked about the future of the program given that it isn’t generating nearly the amount of tax revenue that everyone had hoped.
By early 2018, the country had commissioned a report on its legalized online gambling activities and was told the bad news – up to 60% of the sports betting activity in the country was still being taken by offshore “illegal” sites. The regulator has now officially asked for assistance from external sources, hoping to find a group with a vested interest in the market to come in and better manage the process. Whatever happens, unless the tax rates drop significantly or the country closes the loopholes allowing offshore sites from continuing to poach players, we don’t think there will be a viable short-term solution to the problem.
Online Casino Software Available in Portugal
From a software perspective, there are some signs of companies complying with the laws. While certain software companies are working hand in hand with the licensed sites, many have chosen to sit on the sidelines while the regulatory environment settles down. You can still find great games from these software vendors at casinos accepting Portuguese players:
- Real Time Gaming
- Net Ent
- SG Digital
Best Online Casinos for Portuguese Players
Even in this confusing regulatory climate, this site has our Portuguese players covered with a set of recommended casinos that you will be able to make deposits and play with. Our team of experts has combed through the hundreds of sites that are open to players from Portugal, and taking into consideration a series of factors, have ranked the following casinos as the highest quality for Portuguese players. These sites feature slot machines with excellent graphics, along with sites that are compatible with mobile devices and those that offer the best loyalty programs. We are sure that you will enjoy playing at these sites, but if you have suggestions of other great places to play, please let us know, and we’ll tell our community of readers.