Portugal’s beleaguered casino industry stages partial comeback in 2015

portugal-casino-2015Portugal’s brick-and-mortar casino market returned to growth in 2015, although it has a long way to go to recover its former glories.

According to the Associação Portuguesa de Casino (ACP), the country’s 11 casinos reported revenue of €288.6m in 2015, an 8% improvement over 2014’s total. However, that is but the first step in eliminating the 37% decline the local casino industry experienced between 2008 and 2014.

Total table game revenue improved 12.4% while slot machine revenue rose 7.2%. The ACP blamed the poor slot showing on increased competition from international online casino sites. Portugal is preparing to institute a new regulated online gambling regime but high tax rates and ring-fenced poker rooms could keep operator interest to a minimum.

Portugal’s leading casino operator Estoril-Sol, whose chairman is Macau casino icon Stanley Ho, earned the bulk (€182.3m) of 2015’s casino take. The Lisboa Casino led all comers with €78.9m, up 7.8% year-on-year, while the Estoril casino rose 6.5% to €61.5m and the Povoa de Varzim added €41.9m.

The Solverde group’s five casinos reported combined revenue of €78m, up 8.4% year-on-year, led by its three casinos in Algarve, which gained 9.3% to €29.6m.

Amorim Turism’s Figueira de Fox venue was flat at €14.9m, while the Troi casino rose 37.5% to €4.4m. The Pestana group’s Cadino da Madeira was also flat at €8.6m.

Solverde president Manuel Violas agreed that 2015’s gains weren’t enough to make anyone forget the pain the industry has endured since the country’s finances imploded in 2008 but Violas held out hope that the positive traction was a “sign of a recovering economy.”

The ACP is likely hoping that the government doesn’t decide to impose new regulatory requirements that could blunt those tentative gains. Earlier this month, Portuguese newspaper Diário de Noticias published an editorial that quoted a government evaluation report identifying casinos as “easy targets for money laundering,” which is generally the cue for more casino paperwork.

Portugal isn’t the only European country celebrating a return to form. Last week, France reported its casino industry had also posted its first annual growth since the recession began in 2008.