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Portugal's Council of Ministers Approves Online Poker Regulation

Portugal's Council of Minister Approves Online Poker Regulation

On Thursday, Feb. 26, Portugal's Council of Ministers approved a bill that will regulate online poker in the country. The government believes that the new gambling legislation will generate additional fiscal revenues of €25 million.

Four years after Europe's Troika, the triumvirate composed by the European Commission (EC), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund, asked Portugal's authorities to regulate the online gambling industry, the government approved a piece of legislation that should start to show its first effects before the end of 2015.

"The bill will proceed with the regulation of online gambling in line with the recommendations issued by the EC on this matter and the international best practices," Portugal's government stated in a press release after the meeting of its Ministers.

Portugal's newly approved online gaming regulation aims to regulate online poker, online casino and online betting in order to create a safer environment for the country's players and - at the same time - bring new fiscal revenues for approximately €25 million.

Once the law will be signed by Portugal's President Aníbal Cavaco Silva and published in the country's official bulletin, it will immediately create a new license-based market similar to the ones already in place in Spain, Italy and France. Authorities believe that the first licenses could be issued during the third quarter of 2015.

According to Portugal's government, "licenses will be awarded to all the companies that will ensure the full respect of a set of financial, economic and technical requirements." Portugal's state-issued gambling licenses will reportedly be valid for three years and will be renewable.

The control and the regulation of the market will be left in the hands of the Turismo de Portugal (ITP), the country's tourism institute part of the Ministry of Finance. The ITP will exercise its regulatory powers through a new Gambling Commission.

As PokerNews Portugal reports, games of luck and chance, gambling games, and horse racing betting are likely to be imposed a tax between 15 and 30 percent on their Gross Gaming Revenue (GGR). Sports betting, instead, is likely to be taxed between 8 to 16 percent.

According to Portugal's daily Expresso, the government has already included extra revenues for approximately 25 million Euros in the country budget as it is believed that this could be the sum generated by the sale of the gambling licenses and the taxes applied to the industry.

What is not clear, to date, is if the new regulation will establish in Portugal a ring-fenced market similar to the ones active in the Mediterranean side of Europe (France, Italy, Spain), or it will allow Portuguese players to join the international players pool following the example of countries like the United Kingdom or Denmark.

Given scope of the legislation, however, it is expected for Portugal to not establish a ring-fenced market - as this would make the market less attractive to international online gaming and gambling companies and, therefore, lead to smaller revenues for the State.

During the same meeting, Portugal's Council of Ministers approved new regulation in regards to gambling advertising - with new norms that will become effective once the online regulated market will finally start functioning.

Upon receipt of a license to operate in Portugal, online gaming, gambling and betting companies will be allowed to advertise their products in the country under the same set of rules that is currently applied to alcohol. This means that licensee companies will not be allowed to advertise their games in proximity of schools and will not be allowed to run TV or radio ads during some specific time-slots.

Image courtesy of Mario Proenca/Bloomberg

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