Portugal has announced plans to restrict its online poker market, preventing its online players from playing with those in other countries. The unexpected move will put it on a par with other European countries such as Italy, France and Spain who have similar restrictions in place.
Head of Online Gambling and Director of the SRIJ, Manuela Bandeira, made the announcement at a recent Gambling Compliance conference in Lisbon, informing the attendees that the online poker market in Portugal will hereon be a closed operation. The event was held as an opportunity for Europe’s gambling operators, industry experts and regulators to discuss the multitude of issues facing online poker right now. Commentators have found that the global online poker market has potentially shrunk a huge 20% since 2012, so many gambling companies are looking to increase revenue.
The ring-fencing which has been preliminarily announced for Portugal would only pertain to residents of the country. Portugal could still allow poker players elsewhere in Europe to play on nationally licensed sites. Manuela Bandeira announced that Portugal would be copying the French model when it hands out operator licenses in the future. The online poker market in Portugal was temporarily closed to allow the country’s lawmakers to decide how to best implement the new laws.
The new development stands in contrast to laws passed earlier in 2015. Portugal had previously approved legislation to regulate its online gambling industry – all operators were informed that they would be required to hold a valid gambling license. The country’s Deputy Tourism Minister, Adolfo Mesquita, told the Portuguese player association after these laws were approved that player pool segregation would not be on the agenda in the future. Portugal’s poker players were fully assured that they wouldn’t be restricted, like players in France. The latest statistical numbers to come out of France strongly suggest that the online poker economy is seriously struggling.
It is not certain how the Portuguese player association will react to the drastic new proposed restrictions. Prize pools and cash games will potentially be made limited under a nationally segregated scheme.