Portugal, or officially known as the Portuguese Republic, is a southwestern European country with a long gambling history. The oldest, as well as one of the biggest, casinos located in Europe, is Casino Estoril in Portugal. It was founded in 1931 with the help of the Portuguese businessman Teodoro dos Santos.
Another famous casino in Portugal is Casino Póvoa de Varzim, which was opened in 1934. Along with Casino Estoril, it is one of the greatest architectural treasures of Portugal and it is still operating to this day. Both of the casinos are part of the prestigious casino group Estoril Sol. Currently, the country hosts 11 casinos where both locals and tourists can enjoy a wonderful gaming experience.
Tourism and the gambling industry in Portugal go hand in hand, generating a large portion of the country’s revenue every year. While gambling has been legal in the country for many years now, Portugal still introduced several amendments to its gambling laws to fit the current gambling environment that requires newer regulation measures.
One of the latest changes in Portuguese gambling laws introduced the regulation of online gambling. It fully legalized virtual casinos and sportsbooks, which are overseen by the Regulatory and Inspection Services of Games and Tourism of Portugal. As the two sectors are often codependents, it comes as no surprise that the same regulatory body controls both tourism and gambling activities in Portugal.
Portuguese residents are fortunate enough to be able to legally enjoy different types of gambling activities. Currently, it is legal to participate in fixed-odds sports betting, horse race betting, and bet on various games of chance. The regulated games of chance include baccarat, French Banque, blackjack, bingo, slot machines, poker tournaments, non-banked poker variation, Caribbean Stud poker, American roulette, and French roulette.
There are several laws that regulate different forms of gambling in Portugal. Until the 20th century, almost all types of gambling were illegal in Portugal. The first time games of chance were deemed legal was in 1927, with the first law regulating land-based casinos dating back to 1989.
While the law does not enforce any stake, jackpot, or rollover limits, it requires operators to impose some limitations to ensure responsible gambling. The legal gambling age in Portugal is 18. The law allows gambling-related advertisements as long as they are carried out considering the protection of underage individuals and vulnerable groups. False advertisement about easy monetary winnings, success, higher social status, or special skills related to gambling is not allowed. As long as advertisements promote entertainment and do not encourage excessive gambling activity, they are considered legal under the Gambling LAw of Portugal.
Providing gambling services to minors, as well as promoting gambling activities in schools or other facilities that work with minors is strictly prohibited. Using underage individuals for gambling advertising is also illegal.
Gambling Regulators in Portugal
The Gambling Regulation and Inspection Service (SRIJ) is one of the regulatory bodies that oversee gambling activities in Portugal. The responsibilities of the SRIJ include overseeing, inspecting, and regulating land-based gambling activities, including casinos and bingo halls. The SRIJ is also regulating online gambling activities in Portugal.
The SRIJ works together with police authorities in the prevention of illegal gambling practices that involve land-based casino games, poker, and bingo. This regulator also joins forces with the respective authorities to prevent and impose punishments for any illegal online gambling activities.
The other regulator in Portugal is the Lisbon Holy House of Mercy (SCML), which is a state-funded public entity. It is responsible for the regulation of state-run games such as the National Lottery, offline fixed-odds sports betting, and offline mutual horse race betting. State-run land-based games are strictly operated by SCML representatives but it is possible to be offered by other venues, with the provision that they have obtained a valid license.
To be able to obtain a land-based casino or bingo license, operators have to go through a public tender procedure. There are no limitations on the number of licenses that operators can be granted. The concessions that will be issued, however, depend on the public tenders that the local authorities will launch.
There is no set time frame for the licensing process as every public tender has its specific time limit. A member of the tourism sector of the current government approves the public tender, identifies the license applicants, grants the licenses, and approves any additional drafts of the gaming license agreement.
The duration of the land-based gaming license is determined during the public tender process. Typically, this type of license is valid anywhere between 10 and 20 years, depending on whether the operator applies for a casino or bingo license. The cost of land-based gaming licenses is also determined by every public tender and may differ according to the type of license.
As mentioned earlier, operators can receive casino/bingo licenses only for certain areas in Portugal. This being said, it is possible to receive a special license allowing some games of chance to be offered on ships, aircraft, or other locations that are visited by a high number of tourists.
To be able to receive a land-based gaming license, operators must be registered as a limited liability company, or any equivalent stated in the European Union (EU) or the European Economic Area (EEA). Companies that are not registered in Portugal, must at least have a branch located in the country. Operators that receive a license have to comply with the minimum asset cover ratio that is specified in the Gambling Law. The licensor must be able to identify at any time 60% of the shareholders in the company.
There are four types of licenses that can be obtained by operators that wish to offer online gambling services to Portuguese players/punters. These include licenses for fixed-odds sports betting, totalisator/paris mutual and fixed-odds horse race betting, bingo, and games of chance.
There is no limit to the number of online gaming licenses that can be issued to operators who wish to offer online casino, bingo, sports betting, or any other type of online gambling. To be eligible to receive an online gaming license, operators must be registered as a limited liability company or any other equivalent in the EU or EEA. If a company is not registered in Portugal, it must at least have a branch in the country. The license applicants must have their tax and social security affairs in place in Portugal or in the state where the operator’s headquarters is located.
Another condition that operators must meet is to prove that they have the financial capacity to operate under the Gambling Law of Portugal. Operators applying for an online gaming license must submit a plan for their gambling technical system and they must state that they will be providing gambling services.
To apply for a license, operators must fill out the standard application form that has been approved by SRIJ. They should also provide the required documents, proving they will comply with the aforementioned requirements. Usually, the entire licensing process takes between 6 to 18 months.
Online gaming licenses are valid for three years and operators have the opportunity to extend their licenses by another three years. The initial license approval fee that operators must pay is €18,000 and an additional €2,000 for every type of betting category that the operator will be licensed to provide. If the operator applies for authorization of any game of chance that is not included in the original license, this will incur a fee of €2,000 for every type of additional game of chance.
An extension of the validity of an online gaming license costs €12,000 for fixed-odds sports betting, totalisator/paris mutual and fixed-odds horse race betting, and games of chance. The renewal of an online bingo license costs €2,000.
If an operator is approved for a license, the applicant will also have to pay a fee of €500,000 that will serve as a guarantee of legal obligations and a gambling special tax of €100,000. Both of these deposits are paid to SRIJ.
Gambling Related Tax in Portugal
Thanks to the latest amendment of the online gambling tax regime in March 2020, the progressive rate was eliminated. Different types of gambling activities impose different taxes. Casino games offered in land-based facilities, including bingo and poker games, incur an IEJ gambling tax. It varies depending on the location where the casino games are offered and it can be anywhere between 4.5% and 40% of the casino games’ Gross Gaming Revenue (GGR). Betting in bingo halls is subjected to a Stamp Duty of 25%. This tax rate applies to both traditional and electronic bingo halls.
The tax that is applied to online gambling is known as IEJO and it varies according to the form of the gambling activity. Games of chance, including bingo and poker, incur an IEJO tax of 25%. While the tax rate for games of chance is applied to the GGR, the IEJO tax for bingo and poker is levied on the fees collected by operators.
Paris mutual horse racing bets impose an IEJO levy of 25% on the GGR. The tax for fixed-odds sports betting is 8% and is levied on the revenue from placed bets. When the only revenue is generated by fees collected on fixed-odds sports betting or fixed-odds horse racing, where punters bet against each other, an IEJO tax of 35% is levied on these fees.
While prize money is not subjected to any taxation, state-run games impose a Stamp Duty of 4.5% on the bet amount and 20% on the prize amount if it exceeds €5,000. The only exception is mutual horse race betting, which imposes an IEJ tax of between 15% and 30% on the GGR.
Responsible Gambling in Portugal
Operators authorized to offer gambling services in Portugal must ensure the integrity, security, and reliability of the type of gambling they provide. They are required to inform players/punters about the risks of gambling and provide enough tools that ensure responsible and safe gambling.
Before authorized operators launch their services, they need to provide a plan that includes several key matters. An operator is required to offer general information about the company and the form of gambling activities it will provide. Another requirement is to provide players with information about responsible gambling and the risks of gambling addiction. This includes a permanent warning message about responsible gambling on the respective website of the operator.
The Portugues law requires gambling operators to incorporate protective tools that will prevent access to minors and vulnerable players who have chosen to make use of self-exclusion features. Gambling operators should also provide players with options that allow setting deposit and wagering limits. Self-exclusion and timeouts should also be available to players who wish to control their gambling patterns.
Portugal has a long gambling history, with some of the oldest land-based casinos in Europe, being located in the country. Different forms of gambling have been legalized in Portugal, giving fans of casino games, sports betting, lottery, and bingo the chance to bet both offline and online.
The two primary pieces of legislation that regulate the gambling industry in Portugal are the Gambling Law of 1989, also known as Decree-Law No. 422, and Decree-Law No. 66 of 2015. Under these laws, both online and land-based gambling is permitted in Portugal.
There have been several amendments to the gambling law of the country, the latest being in 2020. Thanks to the recent change in the legal framework, the progressive tax rate was eliminated. It is expected, however, that a new amendment may be passed in the next two years or maybe even sooner.