According to Macau Business, after the historic drop in revenue of land-based casinos in Portugal last year, they face 2021 with pessimism. Also, the closure of casinos during the lockdown brought the industry to its knees.

Right now, it appears that 2021 may not be different from last year since the pandemic is not going anytime soon. An operator said it is impossible to look forward to 2021 with optimism, considering the challenges last year.

Considering that gamblers are switching to online gambling platforms, will the Portuguese casino operators recover from their losses in 2020?

Overview of Land-based Portuguese Casino Market

The Portuguese casino industry comprises 12 land-based casinos and one gaming room. Also, the areas earmarked by the government for casino gambling activities are:

The agency that supervises the activities of the gambling operators is called Serviço de Regulação e Inspeção de Jogos (SRIJ). Also, this agency is a component of the tourism office in Portugal. The primary duty of the SRIJ is to monitor, inspect, and regulate any game of chance registered in Portugal. The games offered at most Portuguese land-based casinos are blackjack, French and American roulette, Baccarat punto Banco, Cussec, Craps, Baccarat – chemin de fer, keno, bingo, slots, etc.

The twelve casinos authorized to operate in Portugal are:

The games offered by these casinos are based on their legal framework. More so, for these casinos to operate any casino game, it must be captured in their legal framework at the time of licensing and approved by SRIJ.

Impact of COVID-19 on the Portuguese Casino Industry

The pandemic made business hard for Portuguese casino operators. A Portuguese casino association’s statement said that the continuous restriction on opening hours has further decreased their revenues. Moreover, there is no end in sight yet because of the new COVID variants discovered in other parts of the world.

Operators of landed casinos in other parts of the world are still feeling the effect of the pandemic. For instance, land-based casinos in Seoul, South Korea, have been shut down since the 8th of December 2020. However, they will be reopened on the 17th of January 2021.

Not to mention, the Portuguese land-based casino and slot revenue reduced by 17.5 percent to €62.0m in 2020. In January and February 2020, the land-based casino revenues were €27.5m and €25.2m, respectively. Then in March, it fell to €9.

The Online Gambling Market in Portugal

Like most countries in Europe, the Portuguese online gambling market also benefited from land-based casinos’ closure. The online gambling market revenue grew by 8.4 percent to €131.8m in the first quarter of 2020. What’s more, this is the highest revenue figure for online gambling in Portugal in the first quarter of any year.

About half of the online gambling revenue came from online casinos at €35.3m. On the other hand, sports betting generated €34.5m. The estimated growth of online casinos and sports betting is 56.5 percent and 39.2 percent from the previous year. However, slots were more popular with revenue of €960.8m in 2020.

Consequently, the number of new online players also appreciated in the first quarter of 2020. The number increased by 25.8 percent to 157,400 compared to 2019.

Government Strict Policies and Online Gambling

It appears that government policies don’t seem to favor the online real money gambling market. This is quite surprising to most industry watchers, considering that the industry can generate twice what is expected from land-based casinos.

For instance, sometime in April 2020, Portugal’s Parliament passed a bill requesting the government impose more online gambling operations restrictions. To some, more restrictions on online gambling operations may be likened to banning it entirely.

Presently, online gambling operators are already complaining of high tax regimes. Will these restrictions reduce following the huge loss of revenue from land-based casinos?

2021 Forecast of the Portuguese Casino Industry

Right now, it is difficult to be optimistic about a better year for land-based casinos in Portugal. More so, more variants of the pandemic are discovered in other parts of Europe. However, with the introduction of vaccines, the restrictions on casino operation may ease down.

Finally, like most sectors, the gambling industry in Portugal requires some government intervention. At least easing the restrictions on online gambling will be helpful.