Seeking to protect vulnerable consumers, the Portuguese government will introduce a new set of measures to restrict online gambling.
Portugal Votes Bill No. 326 to Restrict Online Gambling
A new bill passed by the Portugal government and submitted by Partido das Pessoas, dos Animais e da Natureza (PAN) will now seek to limit online gambling during the coronavirus lockdown.
Bill No. 326 doesn’t specify what restrictions those would be, but it mentions that regulators might seek “a partial or complete limitation” on online gambling, the blanket term suggesting that both sportsbooks and online casinos would most likely be affected.
In explaining the reasons behind this decision, PAN members said that Portugal must do its best to protect vulnerable members of society during the state of emergency.
Bill 326 cited Spain as an example of how the government in the country has handled gambling during the time of crisis by specifically limiting the advertisement outside the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. local time.
Starting today, the Portuguese government has five days to work out the details and apply the restrictions.
Protecting Those Vulnerable to Gambling Harm
Bill 326 has been pitched with the clear objective of minimizing and if possible eliminating gambling harm during the lockdown. Lawmakers argued that the “unlimited and uncontrolled access to online gaming” could be dangerous combined with the economic slowdown.
MPs highlighted a popular fear that because of the lockdown, people who tend to make rash and impulsive decisions would be less likely to control their behavior and thus run a higher risk of incurring gambling harm.
Portuguese Gambling Results Go Up
Portugal saw an uptick in its total gambling revenue before the coronavirus pandemic struck in late February, bringing most economic activity to a halt.
According to the Serviço Regulação e Inspeção de Jogos do Turismo de Portugal (SRIJ), the 12 licensed gambling companies in the country generated €65.4 million in Q4, 2019 or a 52.1% increase year-over-year.
Sports betting brought in estimated €33.4 million and online casinos fetched an additional €32 million. In terms of total gamblers in the country, as of Q4 2019, the regulator reported a total of 164,000 registered customers.
That led to some €23.6 million claimed in tax by the government for Q4 2019. In light of the current economic lockdown, however, these numbers are most likely to be negatively impacted by a withdrawal of consumers combined with restrictive government measures, such as Bill 326.
More Governments Introduce Restrictions to Online Gambling
More governments have acted on the coronavirus, with Latvia and Lithuania joining in and Sweden even considering a temporary suspension of its own online gambling operations. In the United Kingdom, there have been multiple calls for introducing stricter measures to