Portugal to debate online gaming legislation

By Brad Allen
The Portuguese parliament will debate a draft law on the taxation and regulation of online gambling.

The bill, which seeks to liberalise the market by granting licences to foreign operators for the first time, will be brought to parliament for approval by 10 July.

Currently the online betting market is monopolised by the state-run Santa Casa da Misericordia de Lisboa (SCML), which also runs the national lottery.

However the organization puts its profits towards charitable causes, which means it's tax contributions to a struggling economy are minimal.

In 2011 Portugal received a €78bn bailout from Troika, the tripartite committee consisting of the European Commission, IMF and ECB.

Troika called the possible revenue from the online betting market "an essential part of Portugal's fiscal responsibility”, and demanded a market liberalisation.

Thus far domestic political opposition has stymied a solution, but the high rate of proposed tax - around 20% - may mitigate that resistance.

In spite of the existing ban on foreign internet betting platforms, casino portal CasinoCity has counted 471 English-language race and sports-betting websites that offer wagering opportunities to bettors with Portuguese addresses, plus 27 that support the Portuguese language, including Bet365 and Ladbrokes.

A statement from the Portuguese government concerning the proposed legislation read: “This initiative is crucial to combat illegal gambling, [the] enabler of fraudulent activities and activities possibly associated with money laundering, while allowing the development of social policies through a balanced distribution of gambling revenues, to compensate the social cost.”

The European Professional Football League (EPFL) has also applied pressure to the Portuguese parliament, calling for a new legislative framework to protect the integrity of the sport in the face of the expanding unregulated betting market.

"EPFL and our member leagues are deeply concerned by the increasing allegations of match-fixing and the growing influence of illegal gambling syndicates,” said EPFL CEO, Dr. Emanuel Macedo de Medeiros.

Medeiros also pointed out the substantial revenue benefits that the Portuguese government was missing out on.

Most observers expect a Portuguese online gambling market to look similar to those in Western European neighbours like France, Spain and Italy.

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