More than a year after Portuguese officials released a report on the country’s online gambling potential, the cash-strapped country may finally be ready to liberalize its market. A report in Portugal News Online claimed a source at the ministry of economy said PM Pedros Passos Coelho’s administration expects to collect €250m from online “gambling concessions” in 2012. The source cited an internal government document from mid-December that floated online gambling as a means to help cover a €478m shortfall in social security obligations. Beyond that, details are sparse. There’s no suggestion whether the €250m figure includes taxes, nor what forms of online gambling would be allowed in a liberalized market. Former minister of sport Laurentino Dias suggested last year that the Portuguese online gambling market was worth an estimated €600m.
The alleged plans don’t seem to have given Portugal’s existing online gambling monopoly Santa Casa de Misericordia de Lisboa pause regarding its recent appeal court victory over Bwin. Not satisfied with Bwin being forced to cease all advertising with and sponsorship of Portuguese sports franchises, Santa Casa is seeking €27m (plus interest) in damages from Bwin. Santa Casa also expects to use the Porto Tribunal da Relação decision as precedent to go after the 30 other online gambling outfits doing business in Portugal, with BetClic Everest the most likely candidate to next face Santa Casa’s wrath.
Santa Casa’s European affairs adviser Ana Paula Barros told Gambling Compliance that the company had “legal claims against all the national and international operators of whom we have knowledge of and which are awaiting the conclusion of this claim from Santa Casa against Bwin.” Bwin, for its part, isn’t conceding anything, counting on a reversal when its case reaches Portugal’s Court of Second Instance later this year. Barring that, Bwin is also counting on the European Commission declaring Santa Casa’s monopoly invalid. A Bwin spokesperson claimed Santa Casa had “never qualified” that €27m figure.