Unlicensed operators continue to thrive in Portugal

31 October 2019

The head of Portugal’s leading online gambling trade group has called for the authorities to block payments to unlicensed operators after it was found that a significant number of players continue to gamble with illegal sites.

A survey commissioned by the Portuguese Association of Online Gambling and Gambling (APAJO) found that 56% of gamblers continue to bet with licensed and unlicensed operators some three years after legal online gambling was introduced.

Some 6% of gamblers bet exclusively through illegal websites, while 44% of the total use only sites licensed by the regulator, Serviço Regulação e Inspeção de Jogos do Turismo de Portugal (SRIJ). Among consumers registered in the first half of this year, almost 70% signed up for licensed platforms only.

APAJO president Gabino Oliveira welcomed the usage of licensed sites, but said the authorities need to take a tougher line on offshore operators.

“This data shows a very favourable evolution in the growth of the licensed market,” Oliveira said. “This is a positive sign, although we consider in APAJO that much remains to be done to combat unlicensed online gambling in Portugal.

“The way to go in combating illegal gambling, beyond supervision, is through effective control and blocking of payments that are made on illegal websites. This is a growing trend in other countries that in Portugal must be properly considered and implemented by the competent entities.”

The survey, which was conducted by pollsters Aximage, interviewed more than 600 people who are registered with gambling websites. Of these, some 94% have gambled for money so far in 2019. Based on respondents who have already played in 2019, the reasons for betting with licensed platforms are for 64% that it offers the “highest security”.

The survey found that 42% of registrations were completed prior to 2016, the year in which sector regulation came into force, with the remaining 58% of registrations made in subsequent years. In total, 20% of consumers had registered for a gambling account of which 52% were with licensed operators.

Based on the poll, Aximage estimates that 62.5% of gamblers spend less than €50 per month on legal online games.

Portugal’s regulated online gambling market broke its revenue record for the second consecutive quarter in the three months to June 30, with licenced operators generating a collective total of €48.3m (£44.0m/$53.3m).

At the halfway point of the year, Portugal generated more revenue than in the whole of 2018, with the €95.6m reported in the first and second quarter already some way ahead of last year’s overall total of €78.9m.