Portugal’s online casinos enjoyed major pandemic pump


Portugal’s online gambling market enjoyed a surge of activity in Q2 as punters looked to alleviate pandemic lockdown boredom.   

Figures released Monday by the Serviço Regulação e Inspeção de Jogos do Turismo de Portugal (SRIJ) regulatory body show online gambling licensees generated revenue of just under €139m in the first half of 2020, 44.2% higher than the same period last year.

Portugal’s online market started the year off on a strong note, setting a new revenue high of €69.8m in Q1 despite the March suspension of major sports due to COVID-19. But the SRIJ claims the market experienced “significant and atypical variations” in gambling turnover in April and May as pandemic boredom set in.

Sports betting turnover totaled €90.7m in Q2, down from €149m in Q1, as turnover slumped to just €7.7m in April before recovering its pre-pandemic form in June. Betting revenue was €20.7m, only around 60% of Q1’s total.    

Online casino (including poker) revenue hit €48.4m, up from €35.3m in Q1, as turnover spiked 38.6% to €1.33b. Over the first half of 2020, online casino turnover jumped 74.4% to €2.29b, peaking in the month of April at €479.3m, nearly €100m more than March. Turnover dipped slightly to €468.3m in May, then dropped back to €372m in June.

Interestingly, while slots continued to account for the bulk of online casino play, its share dropped to its lowest level (61.7%) in April, the month in which online casino spending peaked. That month saw online poker’s share of casino spending hit a high of 14.4% before falling back to earth in May (10.7%) and June (8.7%).

The market saw its number of new customer sign-ups peak in March at 60k, falling slightly in April (53,200) and May (33,500) before nudging up to 43,600 in June.  

The SRIJ noted that despite Portugal’s online market being “not very mature,” it had nonetheless “proved capable and apt … resisting and adapting in a period of great changes.” As of June, the market had resumed “a progressive and gradual activity, returning to game patterns” seen before the pandemic took hold.

In April, Portuguese politicians approved legislation that authorized the government to establish “partial or total limitations on access to online gaming platforms” during the pandemic. However, the government never followed through on this plan, as the state of emergency had been lifted by the time the Ministry of Economy got around to contemplating how the measure would be imposed.

The market welcomed one additional licensee during Q2, as Bidluck SA was granted an online casino permit for its Bidluck.pt site.

In May, the SRIJ issued a manual of best practices for gambling advertising, which barred radio and TV spots between 7am and 10:30pm, as well as prohibiting ads in the half-hour immediately before and after a kid-focused program.