Portugal’s online gambling market sustains post-World cup gains


portugal-2018-online-gambling-marketPortugal’s online gambling operators reported revenue growth of nearly one-quarter in the second full year of the regulated market’s existence.

Figures released this week by the Serviço Regulação e Inspeção de Jogos do Turismo de Portugal (SRIJ) regulatory body show the state’s nine online gambling licensees (recently expanded to 10) generated combined revenue of €43m in the final three months of 2018, a nearly 18% improvement over the same period last year.

The country’s sports betting licensees reported revenue of €21.6m in Q4, a modest €1.1m rise from Q4 2017. Betting turnover was up nearly one-third to €110.6m, significantly higher than operators reported during last summer’s FIFA World Cup months, but the revenue figure failed to match pace thanks to a spate of punter-friendly results in December, during which operator revenue fell 9% year-on-year.

Online casino revenue – into which the SRIJ bundles online poker – hit a record €21.5m in Q4, one-third higher from Q417 and €1.1m higher than Q318. Slots accounted for more than three-fifths of this bounty, while roulette and blackjack claimed 14% and 8.5% shares, respectively. Poker cash games earned a 10.6% slice while tournament managed a 5.3% share.

Online licensees counted over 103k new account registrations in Q4, marking a 22% decline year-on-year. As of December 31, a total of 31.5k customers had opted to self-exclude from their online gambling activity, representing roughly 2.7% of the market, up around 0.5 points from the end of 2017.

Q4 saw the SRIJ direct local internet service providers to block the domains of 19 internationally licensed online gambling operators deemed to be catering to the needs of Portuguese punters without the SRIJ’s permission. Thirteen of these operators were referred to the public prosecutor’s office after apparently ignoring the SRIJ’s demands to GTFO.

For the year as a whole, overall revenue was up 24% to €152.1m, with sports betting improving nearly 16% to €78.9m and online casino/poker gaining more than one-third to €72.3m.

Portugal’s online sports betting licensees have always suffered under the country’s punitive taxation of their betting turnover – with rates topping out at a whopping 16% — rather than the revenue-based tax model employed by saner nations. The government abruptly suggested last fall that changes might be in the works, then just as swiftly reneged on those promises.

But help may be on the way, after the government established a working group in late January to consider revamping the market’s entire tax structure. The group consists of representatives from multiple government departments, who have been given one month to deliver their recommendations to the government. Also up for discussion is whether to scrap the current horseracing betting monopoly enjoyed by state-run Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa (SCML). Only time will tell if this results in real change or just another fake-out.