Portugal Introduces Legislation to Prohibit Online Casino

The Portuguese government has introduced legislation that could lead to a ban on online casino during the coronavirus state of emergency. If enacted, a partial or total prohibition of customers accessing online casinos could be introduced.

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Portugal Considers Online Casino Ban © Pixabay.

In an amendment to law 10-I/ 2020, legislators have inserted a clause which allows for “partial or total limitations on access to online gambling are established until the end of the period relating to the state of emergency, with a view to protecting consumers”.

The wording of the amendment does not explain in which situation the prohibition could be introduced or clarify what the difference between a partial or total ban would look like. It is however believed that any measures brought in would apply to online casino activity.

Initially, online sports betting was included in the government’s 326/XIV/1 bill last month. However, the Portuguese authorities removed all mention of fixed-odds sports betting due to the cancellation of almost all sporting events globally.

These proposals are a precautionary measure by the Portuguese authorities who fear that the country’s lockdown measures could lead to “unlimited and uncontrolled” access to online gambling sites from residents. Officials have voiced concerns that individuals may exhibit less impulse control and could be drawn into gambling. According to regulators, the financial impact of the Covid-19 outbreak could also entice individuals to gamble money they cannot afford to lose.

It is believed that the proposal to restrict or potentially ban participation at online casinos is just one of several plans that the Portuguese authorities are considering during the outbreak. However, further details on what these measures consist of, and what verticals they could affect, are not known at this time.

The vagueness of the wording, along with the lack of detail in the legislation, has led to criticism of the government’s proposals. Tiago Bessa, who is a managing associate at Portuguese law firm Vieira De Almeida, is one of those who have voiced concerns with the plans. Claiming current rules are already sufficient, she said:

I can understand the concern from the public authorities on this matter, but most of the topics that the law/regulation intend to cover could already be addressed under existing legal mechanisms. It does not seem like a necessary measure at this stage Tiago Bessa, Vieira De Almeida.

Bessa added that the government’s plans were “not well-worded and raised a lot of legal concerns” and said she felt that a total ban would prove to be unenforceable. Any restrictions placed on online casinos is likely to impact operators hard, especially as casino revenue is the only source of income for many due to the lack of sporting action caused by the spread of the coronavirus.

The Portuguese market before the outbreak had been one of the strongest performing markets in western Europe. In figures released by the regulator (SRIJ), gross gaming revenue rose 39.1% year-on-year during Q3 2019 to €54m.

Online casino revenue was a contributory factor in the overall rise, revenues of €28.2m up from 19.2m represent a 45.2% increase in 2018’s figures. Players in the country staked €741.5m on online casino sites during Q3, which is a 33.8% upturn on the previous year.

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