The fate of online poker in Portugal should be decided in the coming weeks, unless the game’s opposition throw up any significant political hurdles. Following mounting pressure from the forces responsible for the country’s financial bailout (namely, the International Monetary Fund, European Union and European Central Bank), the Portuguese government has booked time to talk about the issue before the end of its latest parliamentary session.
With the deadline now set for July 10th, ministers will now debate the suitability of current proposals surrounding online gaming. At present the proposals are lying in wait, because of three years of political pressure from those who oppose the liberalisation of the industry, but there will now be a formal hearing of its contents.
In general, the proposed legislation is similar to that seen in Spain, with foreign operators being forced to apply for a licence. Subject to approval all licensed online gaming providers will then face a tax levy of between 15 percent and 20 percent; however, as yet, no concrete figures have been determined.
Quite why the legal changes have stalled is unclear, but several sources close to the situation have suggested that the Santa Casa da Misericordia de Lisboa (SCML) have been at the source of the delay. The religious organization receives a substantial amount of money from regulated gambling in Portugal, and feel the new laws could affect its ability to fund charitable projects across the country.
However, with money tight and the bailout bosses wanting a return on their investment, the formal taxation of online gaming is now a necessity. Indeed, the three entities responsible for Portugal’s financial revival originally slated February as a deadline for the new proposal to be heard. However, the continued political wrangling has caused discussions to be delayed.
When asked about online gambling, the leader of the SCML, Pedro Santana Lopes, insisted that his organization is ready to comply with online gaming regulations, but only if it’s possible to exploit sports betting. However, there’s no escaping the fact that the SCML currently has a monopoly when it comes to gambling in Portugal, and any threat to that will be bad for business. Indeed, with major operators already holding established reputations across the country, it’s likely the SCML will lose a lot of its power if the new laws are put into place.
How the discussions will end is unclear; however, it’s likely Portugal will become the latest regulated online gaming market in Europe. Indeed, as yet another European country begins its move towards regulated online gaming, it seems the scope for rogue trading is getting less and less. Although taxation laws might be squeezing some players a little too hard – see the decline of online poker in France as an example – the trend for licensing and regulation have certainly helped safeguard players from unruly operators.