The primary pieces of gambling legislation in Portugal are Decree-Laws Nos. 422/89 of 2 December and 66/2015 of 29 April, which permit both online and land-based gambling, and provide the following definitions of games and their different categories:
- Games of chance: games in which winning or losing is based solely or mainly on chance. Games of chance include casino games (namely, blackjack and roulette) and also bingo, poker and slot machines.
- pari-mutuel betting, where a percentage of the bets placed by the betters is distributed among the winners;
- fixed-odds betting, where the better bets against the operator organising the bet on the basis of previously defined odds, and the prize is the result of multiplying the amount of the bet placed for the odds; and
- betting-exchange, where the operator provides an online marketplace for betters to bet against each other.
- Lotteries: games in which a prize is awarded when a number or combination of numbers, or a symbol or symbols, drawn at random coincide totally or in part with the ticket held by the player.
'Other games' are considered to be similar to games of chance (i.e., contests, raffles, tombolas, advertisement contests, quiz shows) and consist of operations offered to the public where the hope for gain lies both in the player's chance and skill or only in luck, resulting in a prize of economic value.
These games are regulated as land-based gambling and are subject to the supervision of the Minister of Internal Administration, which establishes the conditions in which each game can be operated as well as the respective regime.
A change in law in the near future may give municipalities the power to authorise such games.
Fantasy leagues and skill competitions are yet to be regulated as gambling activity.
Similarly, betting on the results of lottery draws, as well as betting on the result of the domestic national lottery, lacks regulation in the Portuguese legal system.ii Gambling policy
The right to operate gambling is reserved by the state and may be granted to private entities through a concession agreement (land-based games of chance), an administrative authorisation and licence (online gambling) or a monopoly regime (state-run games).
The principles laid down in the gambling legislation aim to guarantee public safety and order; prevent excessive and unregulated gambling; control addictive behaviours; protect consumers; protect the integrity of the games; promote responsible gambling; prevent fraud, money laundering and terrorist financing; and demand that operators are fit and proper, and operate in a way that ensures an honest and fair game while preventing minors from playing.
The minimum age for gambling is fixed at 18 years for all types of games and bets.iii State control and private enterprise
Lotteries, pari-mutuel sports betting, land-based pari-mutuel horse betting and land-based fixed-odds sports betting are state-run games.
State-run games are operated under a monopoly regime by Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa (SCML), through its Games Department.
SCML is a private entity with public administrative interest under state control and subject to the supervision of the social security ministry.
The operation of land-based games of chance and online gambling is open to competition through the awarding of concession agreements for the former and the issuing of licences for the latter.iv Territorial issues
The gambling legislation is applicable and enforceable in the national territory of Portugal and the government is the grantor on the concession agreements.
Nevertheless, the procedure for the awarding of concession agreements in the islands of Madeira and Azores is in the competence of the regional government.v Offshore gambling
The offer of land-based games of chance in places other than those legally authorised is considered a crime in Portugal.
It is also considered a crime if an operator offers (or promotes or organises) online gambling without having a licence issued by the national tourism authority. Portugal does not recognise licences issued by other EU Member States.
Without prejudice to criminal liability, the Gambling Authority has the power to order internet service providers to block illegal websites whenever an illegal operator does not cease its activity and does not remove the gambling service from the internet within a maximum period of 48 hours after being notified for that purpose.
Undertakings that operate illegally in Portugal cease to be considered of good standing and may not be able to apply for a licence.
Gambling advertising by illegal operators is prohibited and is considered an administrative offence. The Gambling Authority is the competent authority to impose the penalties provided under the law.
In May 2017, the Gambling Authority signed cooperation and information exchange agreements with several regulatory authorities, including Spain, France and the United Kingdom, mainly in order to combat illegal online gambling.
The offer of state-run games by entities other than SCML is considered an administrative offence, with the exception of land-based fixed-odds sports betting and land-based pari-mutuel horse-racing bets, which is considered a crime.