03/09/2012 : IS PORTUGAL MOVING TOWARD REGULATED ONLINE GAMBLING?
Cash strapped government re-considering its position on internet gambling
Portugal, traditionally an opponent of online gambling which was seen as a threat to its state lottery monopoly, appears to be changing course on the desirability of regulating, licensing…and of course taxing… online gambling.
At the end of last year the weekly newspaper Sol published details from an internal government discussion document that examined the possibility of using funds generated from legalising online gambling as a means of financing urgent pension needs.
At the time it was estimated that such a strategy could raise an extra Euro 250 million for government coffers.
In February this year the discussion surfaced again, when the Portugal Daily Review reported that a source in the Ministry of the Economy had confirmed that the concept was being progressed, although little detail was available. The figure of Euro 250 million, collected from "gambling concessions" was still the financial target at that point.
Rita Abecasis, advisor to Secretary of State for Tourism Cecília Meireles, confirmed that, “this 250 million will come from online gambling”, however the government has not yet clarified whether the number includes ongoing taxes in addition to initial licensing fees.
This month, Meireles indicated that the government thought the introduction of a regulatory regime, and the concomitant collection of taxes, was do-able before the end of 2012, although she gave scant further detail.
Speaking to the Publico newspaper, she confirmed that there was political agreement on the concept, although the detail had yet to be fleshed out.
It is uncertain where this leaves foreign operators like Bwin.party digital, which has – so far unsuccessfully – been locked in an expensive legal confrontation with a state lottery intent on shielding its monopoly in European Court of Justice and Portuguese court proceedings since 2009.