Portugal sets online gambling record; online taxes going up


portugal-online-gambling-revenue-tax-hikePortugal’s regulated online gambling market closed out 2019 in style, with Q4 revenue up by more than one-half year-on-year, but new higher taxes are in the mail.

Figures released Tuesday by the Serviço Regulação e Inspeção de Jogos do Turismo de Portugal (SRIJ) regulatory body show the state’s 12 online gambling licensees generated combined revenue of €65.4m in the three months ending December 31, 2019. That’s a 52.1% rise from Q4 2018’s total, €11.4m higher than Q3 2019 and a new market record.

There were nine active sports betting licensees at the end of Q4 2019 that combined for €33.4m in revenue, up 55% year-on-year, while betting turnover spiked by more than two-thirds to a record €185.3m. Football remains the dominant betting sport, capturing nearly three-quarters of all wagers, followed by basketball (13.3%), tennis (6.3%) and hockey (3%).

Online casino revenue, which had surpassed sports in the previous two quarters, slipped back into second-place in Q4 with €32m (+49.1%). Total casino spending hit €852.2m, up from just €275.8m in Q4 2018, with slots accounting for nearly 69% of online casino turnover, well ahead of roulette (13.6%) and blackjack (8.1%).

Poker, which the SRIJ includes in its casino totals, accounted for only 9.3% of casino spending, with cash games (6.5%) easily eclipsing tournaments (2.8%).

Portugal’s online licensees boasted just under 164k registered customers at the end of Q4, up from just 103.5k at the end of Q4 2018.

The SRIJ added three new licensees during Q4, including Caravel Entertainment, a Malta-based company that was issued licenses for online sports betting and casino via its Moosh.pt domain. The site has yet to officially launch.

Portugal’s government claimed tax revenue of €23.6m in Q4, a 37.4% rise over Q4 2018’s tax take, and equal to about 36% of total revenue generated. Portugal’s online gambling tax regime is one of Europe’s highest and the government has so far turned a deaf ear to operators’ pleas for some kind of tax relief.

Last month, Portugal’s Lusa news agency reported that the government 2020 budget planned to boost the online casino tax rate from 15% to 25%, while the rate on betting exchange revenue would jump to 35% from its current 15%.

Some local politicians have suggested they may be open to sports betting operators’ pleas for a flat tax on revenue rather than the tiered tax on betting turnover that currently exists. But any change on this front, which is far from guaranteed, won’t happen until at least 2021.

The SRIJ’s efforts to prevent internationally licensed online gambling operators from horning in on its licensees’ turf continued in Q4, with cease-and-desist notices sent to 30 pesky foreign operators, while 15 of these operators’ domains were sent to local internet service providers for blocking. The SRIJ forwarded 13 of these naughty names to local prosecutors for launching criminal proceedings.

Last November, over a dozen Portuguese social media influencers were chastised for using YouTube videos to promote international sites offering everything from eSports betting to ‘mystery box’ sites such as Drakemall. Apart from these sites lacking a Portuguese license, the influencers’ audiences – which number in the millions – include a significant number of underage viewers.

The SRIJ was duly notified of these antics, which resulted in YouTube promptly deleting some of the offending videos, while eSports betting site Blaze.com appeared to have lost its Portuguese market presence.