Will Portugal Establish the Next Online Poker Monopoly in Europe?
After an attempt to regulate online gaming last November did not succeed, the Portuguese government has already pledged that it will be ready to approve a new piece of legislation by the end of February.
Público, Portugal's leading newspaper, reports that the changes were anticipated in a memorandum of understanding that Portugal's government sent earlier this week to Europe's troika (European Commission, European Central Bank, International Monetary Fund) for presenting some of the measures planned to help the country's growth.
Although it is still unclear how the government intends to regulate Portugal's online gaming and betting markets, some bits of the proposal discussed last year by the parliament hint that the country could establish Europe's next monopoly.
According to the text prepared in 2013 by Portugal's Social Democratic Party (PSD) and People's Party (CDS), the online gaming and sports betting markets would be left in the hands of Santa Casa da Misericórdia (SCML), with horse betting staying under the control of Turismo de Portugal, a body created within the ministry of economics.
Yet, when contacted by PokerNews to discuss about the agency's future role in Portugal's upcoming online gaming market, Sónia Pascoal from SCML gaming department said that "the organization is currently not exploring the possibility of offering any kind of poker games."
The possibility of Portugal to regulate online gaming with a monopoly attracted criticism from operators, as this decision is seen to be in contrast with market needs.
"A monopoly would not be in line with reality," commented European Gaming and Betting Association secretary general Maarten Haijer. "A monopoly is the worst possible way to restrict the freedom of operators to offer services and of consumers to choose what is best for them."
"A monopoly would also not help against compulsive gambling as it will most likely push people to play on illegal operators," Haijer added. "The experience of other EU member states shows that this approach simply doesn't work. It is also on Portugal to prove the necessity of restrictions in the online gaming market, as the European Court of Justice established strict and precise rules for monopolies."
*Lead photo courtesy of WallpapersMag.