Online gambling was only formally legalised in Portugal in 2015. While online gambling has been active in the country for many years, there was no official regulation, meaning that any online gambling venture could, in theory, offer their services to players in Portugal. The advent of relatively new Portuguese gambling laws all but negates that, though. So, what is the current situation in Portugal today? Can you gamble online legally, or not?
Gambling laws in Portugal
In theory, any online gambling operator can offer their services to players in Portugal. However, there are clauses. First and foremost, these operators must obtain a gambling license from the Portuguese gambling commission. Then, and only then, will their website be declared legal.
There’s more, though. On top of that, any gambling operator offering their services to Portuguese players must also pay tax to the state, based on the amount they receive in revenue from Portuguese players. There is a notoriously high tax on income of between 15% and 30%. However, sports betting sites get away with far less, at just 8% or 16% of their revenue.
Officially, all licensed must come from the Serviço de Regulação e Inspeção de Jogos do Turismo de Portugal, or SRIJ for short. They are gambling body which regulates the industry. There are strict conditions under which an operator may receive a license. They must offer either fixed-odds sports betting, mutual and fixed-odds horse race betting, bingo games, or traditional casino games of chance, such as baccarat, blackjack, roulette or poker. Note that Portugal considers poker a game of chance and not a game of skill.
Portuguese casinos are relatively easy to find. Most of them will be able to offer their services to Portuguese players and will offer the Portuguese language and euro currency. These casinos will also favour payment methods which appeal to players in the country, have bonuses and promos relevant to those players, and fulfil all the licensing criteria as mentioned above.
The range of internationally recognisable online casinos operating in Portugal is limited. This is largely because the major brands do not wish to get involved in a gambling industry with such high taxes, even if Portuguese players do like to spend considerable sums playing online.
Of course, we would always recommend players to play at a Portuguese online casino. However, if none appeal to you, there are other ways to go about getting your gaming dose. Offshore casinos are technically illegal in the country, but access to them is not prohibited in any solid kind of way. That could be an avenue you may wish to explore. Let’s look at how you can play at offshore casinos in Portugal next.
Officially, the Portuguese gambling authority (SRIJ, if you’ve forgotten) can demand that a Portuguese internet service provider block and prohibit access to any online casino which does not carry a legal and valid Portuguese gambling license. They have been known to do this on more than one occasion. However, the methods the SRIJ and ISPs (internet service providers) use are not exactly effective.
Most ISP bans on offshore casinos can be broken rather easily. A semi-decent VPN (virtual private network) will help you get around geo-blocking. You might think that the mere fact that they are offering their services illegally to players in Portugal would turn operators away from the market, but it doesn’t.
The main reason for this is that under Portuguese law, operators cannot be prosecuted for offering their services to players in the country. When Portugal passed a new gambling law requiring casinos to obtain a Portuguese gambling license, they did not pass any laws which made it legal for them to prosecute offshore casinos breaking that very law. It seems to have been a major faux pas on their behalf.
Because of this, many offshore casinos continue to offer their services to players in the country as they see fit. Understandably, many Portuguese players will then play at said casinos with a VPN (if access to the site is blocked) and the array of games and betting options open to them is far vaster at these sites than native and local ones.
About gambling in Portugal
It seems that however you wish to play your favourite games, you can get away with it in Portugal. You can opt to tread down the perfectly legal route and play at online casinos which are licensed out of the country. You can also choose to play at offshore casinos and not give two hoots since Portugal punishes no-one for doing so. A word of warning, though; if you are going to play at an offshore casino advertising their services to Portuguese players, make your selection carefully. There are a lot of rogue casinos out there who are eager to take advantage of this.
Of course, Portugal’s gambling laws and regulation are not sustainable. Eventually, fewer and fewer casinos will apply for a Portuguese gambling license since they won’t be punished for not doing so. Either Portugal is going to have to get tougher enforcing ISP bans and punishing operator; they could also lower the high taxes and costly license fees to lure in more operators legally, or they could choose to deregulate their industry. It is unlikely to be the latter. To back that up, players only need to look at the statistics, which quite clearly show that just under half of the country’s gambling population frequent offshore casinos, instead of native Portuguese ones. For the time being, though; Portuguese players can rest assured that they have the online gambling world at their fingertips – the entire gambling world, it seems.