Under Decree-Law 422/89 (the Gaming Law), games of fortune and chance are defined as those in which the result is contingent wholly or mainly on chance. Chance is the dominant factor for the purpose of this definition.
The same definition of games of fortune and chance exists in Decree-Law No. 66/2015 (the Online Gaming Regime), but the consideration element was introduced with games of fortune and chance defined as those that entail the spending of a certain amount in cash and whose result is contingent due to being based exclusively or mainly on chance. Therefore, both consideration and chance elements must be present for an activity to be regarded as gambling.
Forms of gambling include the following types and definitions:
- social state games, including the Euromillions, the National Lottery, scratch cards, pari-mutuel soccer betting (Totobola), Totogolo, Totoloto and Joker, as well as games of the same nature organised by other EU or EEA Member States;
- those pari-mutuel horse racing and sports betting activities in which the percentage of the handle is reserved to prizes to be distributed to those who have bet on the correct result of the bet, and the remaining to the organiser of the bet;
- those land-based fixed odds sports betting activities that require the physical presence of the bettor;
- those online gambling (fixed odds sports betting, pari-mutuel and fixed odds horse racing, games of fortune and chance, bingo and poker) activities in which any mechanism, equipment or system that permits the production, storing or transmitting of documents, data or information and that are practiced remotely, through means that are, inter alia, electronic, IT, telematic or interactive; and
- land-based bingo.
Fixed odds bets are defined as those in which the bettor plays against the organiser (bookmaker) on the basis of a value equal to or greater than 1.00 (quota), with up to two decimal places, previously defined or conventionally fixed, being the value associated with each of the possible odds for each bet depending on the likelihood of occurrence of a particular type of result.
Sports bets are defined as the placement of a wager associated with the forecast of a certain type of result of a previously identified competition or sports event, the outcome of which is uncertain, and it is not dependent upon the will of the punters.
Other games include contests, tombola, raffles, advertising contests, knowledge contests and quizzes. They are defined as ancillary forms or other forms of games offered to the public in which the hope of winning rests on the chance and skill of the player, or only on chance, and the award of prizes with economic value.
Despite no legal statute expressly providing the distinction, doctrine and jurisprudence, authorities conclude that speculative and hedging financial products (e.g., insurance and contracts for difference) are not within the category of gambling products and, hence, gaming laws and regulations are not applicable to them.ii Gambling policy
Gambling in Portugal dates back to the Middle Ages when there were casas de tavolagem gambling houses run by gariteiros.
They were prohibited during the kingship of Afonso IV (1325–1357), with repression always being the government approach between then and 1927, with consequences as hard as the death penalty. At the end of the 17th century, lotteries were introduced, but their permanent status was only implemented in 1946.
A passion for gambling has always existed in Portugal, despite the slow evolution of the way that the state considered the activity from repression to tolerance and, at a later stage, legalisation. The 19th century, in line with the European trend of 'summer seasons', saw an increase in gambling activities, particularly in coastal areas.
In 1927, after several years of public discussion and proposals, the first Gaming Law was enacted. The implementation of this Law (Decree No. 14463, of 3 December 1927) entails a necessary evil concept approach and a response acknowledging the fact that repressive laws could not fight the activity. It intended also to reduce illegal gambling, protect gambling stakeholders and minimise the externalities of the gambling activity, safeguarding families' interests.
Land-based casino gaming can only be conducted in defined areas as provided in Decree-Law No. 422/89, of 2 December 1989 (the current Gaming Law), which states as public policy the following:
- reserving gaming to the state with limited liberalisation through concessions for gaming areas;
- profitability of the activity;
- development of entertainment and tourism equipment; and
- attracting tourists.
With the advent of the internet and the proliferation of online gambling offers, the state, in line with the relevant EU directives, enacted in 2015 the Legal Framework of Online Gaming and Betting, which in its preamble enshrines an evolution of public policy to:
- bring operators and players to legality;
- foster a sense of community and responsible gambling;
- protect minors and the most vulnerable persons;
- avoid fraud and money laundering activities;
- prevent criminal behaviour;
- safeguard the integrity of sports, combating corrupted betting schemes and match-fixing;
- enhance competition with the introduction of an open licensing process; and
- ensure that operators are suitable and have the financial capacity for operations.
The general principle is that the operation of land-based gambling is reserved to the state and can only be operated by private entities through a concession as gambling is regulated at a national level, despite the existence of different government entities that can decide on concessions (the central government for mainland concessions and regional government for regional concessions) and even concession terms for two autonomous regions (Azores and Madeira). In this sense, there are exclusive concessions for defined gaming zones within the country.
Social state games (including the Euromillions, the National Lottery, scratch cards, pari-mutuel soccer betting (Totobola), Totogolo, Totoloto and Joker) and land-based sports betting are exclusively operated by Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa (SCML).
As to online gaming, there is no maximum number of available licences, and any entity that fulfils the licensing criteria may obtain a licence. This includes those incorporated as joint-stock companies or similar companies with headquarters in an EU or EEA Member State bound by administrative tax and anti-money laundering regulations; such companies are required to register a branch in Portugal.
As at March 2022, there are 11 licences for fixed odds online sports betting and 14 for games of fortune and chance (some with a single games licence (e.g., poker) or single type (e.g., slot games) and others authorised to have more than one game or type).iv Territorial issues
Gaming (land-based and online) is regulated and licensed nationally by the state, with the sole exception of the competency of the two autonomous regions (Azores and Madeira) to award land-based gaming concessions under their statutes.
The rules for bingo and social state games cover the entire country.
As to ancillary forms and other forms of games (contests, tombola, raffles, advertising contests, knowledge contests and quizzes) the municipalities have competencies to license the activity, following the enactment of Decree-Law No. 98/2018.v Offshore gambling
It is illegal for operators located in other countries to offer internet gambling to consumers located in Portugal without obtaining a licence.
The Gambling Inspection and Regulation Service (SRIJ) has the power to block illegal websites. The offer of games in Portugal from overseas servers is considered a crime (see Section IV).
Before referring to the Public Prosecutor for criminal investigation, the SRIJ may notify illegal operators to cease the activity or notify internet service providers to block the websites that are illegally offering gambling.
Legal and regulatory frameworki Legislation and jurisprudence
In addition to the statutes set out below, there are several regulations, instructions and guidelines covering, among other things, types of games, the technical standards of gaming systems, and gaming machines and certification providers.Land-basedCasinos
- Decree-Law No. 422/89 (the Gaming Law), which is the legal framework for the operation of casino games;
- Law No. 83/2017, which establishes combating money laundering and terrorism financing;
- Law No. 8/2006, which establishes the conditions of hiring and access to casino dealers; and
- Order No. 50/2012, which specifies the regulated professions in the tourism industry.
- Decree-Law No. 31/2011, with amendments introduced by Decree-Law No. 65/2015, which approves the regulatory framework for the operation of bingo outside the casino areas; and
- Order No. 128/2011, which regulates the operation of bingo outside the casino areas.
- Decree-Law No. 310/2002, which approves the operation of entertainment machines (non-gaming).
- Decree-Law No. 66/2015 (with several amendments, the latest introduced by Law No. 2/2020), which is the legal framework for the operation of online gambling and betting.
The SRIJ is the regulatory authority empowered to control, inspect and regulate gambling activities in casinos and bingo halls (territorial concessions), as well as remote gambling (fixed odds sports betting and mutual or fixed odds horse race betting) through any electronic, computer-based, telematic or any other interactive means (online gambling and betting).
The SRIJ is part of Turismo de Portugal, IP and is subject to the authority of the Secretary of State for Tourism. The SRIJ has technical and functional autonomy, and is bestowed with public authority powers to carry out its function.
Social state games (such as the National Lottery) and land-based sports betting are exclusively operated by the SCML, under the authority of the Ministry for Labour, Solidarity and Social Security.iii Remote and land-based gambling
Both land-based and remote gambling are authorised to be operated in Portugal, although there is a clear distinction between bricks-and-mortar (premises-based) and remote (online) gambling in Portugal.
The main differences between these lie on the following aspects:
- the legal regimes for land-based gambling and online gambling are separate;
- land-based gambling can only be operated through a concession within a territorial gaming zone whereas online gambling can be operated through a licence within the entire territory;
- concessions for land-based gambling are limited in number whereas licences to operate online gambling do not have any limit;
- concessions for land-based gambling are granted for a long period of time (up to 40 years) whereas the licences to operate online gambling have a term of three years renewable;
- taxes imposed on land-based gambling and online gambling are different (see Section V); and
- more obligations are imposed on the concessionaires for land-based casinos when compared to online gambling licensees.
The operation and practice of games of fortune and chance can only take place in casinos that are located in permanent or temporary gaming zones, with the exceptions of the operation of games in vessels or aircraft and in slot machine halls.
Under the Gaming Law, there are 10 gaming zones: Algarve, Azores, Espinho, Estoril, Figueira da Foz, Funchal (Madeira Islands), Porto Santo (Madeira Islands), Póvoa do Varzim, Tróia and Vidago-Pedras Salgadas. Of these, only Porto Santo does not have a concession to operate casino games.
Under the authorisation of the government, land-based concessionaires may operate bingo in separate rooms, provided that they are located in the municipality where their casinos are authorised to be operated.
Bingo rooms that are not located in the casinos are also subject to concession and can only be operated in locations previously authorised by the government.
Land-based betting shops can be operated by franchisees of the SCML, which has an exclusive right, and are restricted to social state games and to fixed odds sports betting run by the SCML.v Remote gambling
Land-based casino games can only be offered within casino premises.
As to online, there is no legal provision for the purpose of defining where the wager is deemed to take place.
Nonetheless, considering that the Online Gaming Regime applies to the entire territory of Portugal and that entities licensed under that regime can offer and accept wagers, it can be concluded that the games can only be offered by the licensed operators within the Portuguese territory.
Licensed operators are obliged to have a website identified with '.pt' to operate online games and bets, to which all access is made from a location within the Portuguese territory or using player accounts registered in Portugal.
Finally, if the operators licensed in Portugal offer internet gambling to consumers outside the country, they may be breaching the laws of those countries, which may jeopardise their licences in Portugal. There are, however, Portuguese licence holders that also hold licences in Malta and Curaçao and in other jurisdictions.vi Ancillary matters
Only authorised entities may certify the game systems of online licensees.
Manufacturing, importation, exhibition, transportation and trading of gaming equipment and associated tools for the practice of games must be authorised by the Gambling Inspection and Regulation Service. Both the certifying entities and the gaming equipment manufacturers are registered by Turismo de Portugal, IP after being authorised.
There is no official licence or licensing process, and, therefore, it is only an administrative authorisation that is granted on a case-by-case basis.
Under the Portuguese Gaming Law, directors of casinos, directors of games, parties that have been punished with a prison sentence of more than six months for an intentional crime or parties that have been punished for one of the crimes laid out in the Gaming Law cannot be members of social bodies of land-based concessionaires.
There is a specific regime that must be followed to become a pit boss, a chief supervisor and a dealer, among other casino careers.
In the online space, there are certain duties imposed upon intermediary network services providers, which include the blocking or interrupting of communications, denying access and removing the access of illegal operators and players who bet on their illegal platforms.vii Financial payment mechanisms
Payments can only be made in euros or other currencies that accept conversion into the euro. Most credit cards can be used for online gambling activities. The use of cryptocurrencies and tokens is not authorised and is yet to be regulated in the Portuguese gaming space.