Portugal’s Online Poker Regulation Stalled Till November

Portugal Online PokerPortugal which opened up its gambling market last year will be able to see the entry of foreign online poker operators only after November 2016 as the legislation for online poker regulation is still under review.

Betclic.PT, was the first gaming operator to receive an online gaming license. The site received a sports wagering license and began operations in May in time for the 2016 UEFA European Championship.

Last week the country’s gaming regulator, Regulação e Inspeção de Jogos (SRIJ) announced that a second online betting license has been issued and confirmed that it had been allotted to Bet Entertainment Technologies Ltd. The company will operate on SBTech platform on the domain www.bet.pt. Other interested companies who could end up receiving licenses include land-based casino operator Solverde and lottery operator Santa Casa da Misericordia de Lisboa.

Online poker licenses have however not been released due to issues surrounding approval for shared liquidity. The Head of Online Gambling for SRIJ, Manuela Bandeira had stated in December 2015 that there would be no shared liquidity for sites offering services to Portuguese residents. Banderia wanted Portugal to follow a similar regulation that was being practised in France, Italy, and Spain. However, SRIJ decided to change its position in April 2016 after a meeting with the Portuguese players association ANAon and stated that shared player liquidity will be allowed but not for those holding business-to- business licenses which enable multiple operators to use the same platform.

A recent statement by ANAon has revealed that SRIJ is reviewing two proposals one of which would permit shared liquidity for online poker. After SRIJ approves one of the two proposals, the same will be sent to the European Commission for further approval. This would trigger the three-month time period needed for other European countries to comment, causing the implementation of the proposal to be stalled until November 2016 at the least.

The long delay means that all online poker operators including PokerStars who were expecting to start operations would have to wait until the fourth quarter of this year to see any revenues from Portugal. This delay in the licensing of online poker operators would also allow gray-market operators to hold sway.

Portugal opened up its gambling market in 2015, permitting global operators to enter the country which had until then been a state monopoly. The government hopes to raise close to €25 million ($28 million) in annual tax revenue from online gaming.

The tax rates for online gaming operators have been set at significantly high rates, ranging from 15 percent to 30 percent of gross gaming revenue, considered by most experts as detrimental to profit margins. Sports betting companies pay 8 percent tax on the first €30 million of turnover after which they pay 16% on the rest.