Portugal has undergone several changes to its gambling laws in recent years. This has, understandably, left a lot of Portuguese players confused as to just what they can wager on when playing online. The country has gone from not having any gambling laws, to having monopolised ones, and now, to a regulated, licensed and taxed system. Let’s unwrap this twisted network of rules to make things as transparent as possible for players based in Portugal.
Is Online Gambling Legal in Portugal?
A few years ago, online gambling was not regulated at all in the Iberian country. However, laws passed in 2015 essentially granted the Portuguese National Lottery a monopoly on online gaming. The result was a woefully short list of official online betting sites which Portuguese could play at. As a result, many turned to offshore casinos, where the pool was far more extensive.
A further change saw Portugal break apart that monopoly so that any online casino operator would be entitled to apply for a Portuguese gambling license from the Serviço de Regulação e Inspeção de Jogos do Turismo de Portugal, or SRIJ for short. They permit any site to offer their services to players in the country legally. There are a few more ins and outs to it than that, though.
The new laws state that aside from having a Portuguese gambling license, those operators must also pay tax to the government, based on any income they receive from national players. Moreover, the tax is high. Gambling operators can expect to be taxed between 15% and 30% of their revenues. By contrast, sportsbooks get away with lower 8% to 16% tax rates. Understandably, this has led to a fair bit of criticism of the SRIJ, and few major operators are prepared to apply for licenses.
Portuguese Online Casinos
Any online casino which has successfully received an online casino license from the Serviço de Regulação e Inspeção de Jogos do Turismo de Portugal can effectively be considered a Portuguese online casino.
These websites are the only ones to be able to offer Portuguese players access to games legally. Even then, the types of games they can provide are limited. They include sports betting, horse race betting, bingo, and online casino table games as well as slots. Lottery games don’t seem to be included and appear to still fall under the jurisdiction of the Portuguese National Lottery.
Portuguese casinos will naturally offer gameplay using the euro. However, they will also provide support and games in the country’s language, as well as provide a range of payment methods which are easy to use for the local players. Given the high tax rate, though, few major casinos are appropriately licensed in the nation.
Offshore Casino Sites for Portuguese Players
Many Portuguese players choose to play at offshore casinos. These are sites which accept players from the European country but do not have a license from the SRIJ to do so. In theory, the gambling authorities have permission to demand ISPs (internet service providers) in the nation to block access to any foreign sites. They sometimes do just that. However, the blocks are basic at best, and Portuguese players are easily able to slip past them with VPNs (virtual private networks).
Portugal does not punish any of its nationals for playing at offshore casinos. Nor are they particularly effective at fining offshore casinos which offer their services to citizens – and many of them do, in Portuguese, no less. Because of this, it is little surprise that many Portuguese choose to play at international casinos.
Is Anything Likely to Change in the Future?
The Portuguese Government seem to have followed the same steps that Spain made when it decided to heavily regulate online casino gaming. They are currently experiencing exactly the same results, too. In both cases, the high tax rates have seen many top and famous providers and operators turn away from the market. As a direct result, many Portuguese (and Spaniards) have chosen to visit offshore casinos for their casino games.
Portugal hasn’t really voiced any concerns with this system. It is the operators who aren’t happy about it. There have been no rumours of any changes in the wind. Because of that, things are not likely to change in the country at any point in the immediate future. Of course, if they were smart, the Portuguese gaming authorities would realise that there is arguably more money to be had by lowering their tax rates and convincing more providers to enter their market.
Top Portuguese Casino Sites
Portuguese players should have no fear about playing at offshore casinos if they aren’t impressed with what SRIJ-licensed sites can offer. There are plenty of top online gaming sites around to join, and a good number of those feature here on this page.
Trada Casino is an excellent place to start, and major sportsbook-turned casinos such as Betway are worth a look, too. Players may also wish to check out 21 Casino, Paradise Casino and Cleopatra, amongst other casino domains listed on this page.