The online Portuguese gambling sector appears to be thriving, despite the coronavirus pandemic, according to figures released this week.

Gaming revenue for the first half of 2020 is up 44.2% year-on-year according to figures released by Servico de Regulacao e Inspecao de Jogos (SRIJ), the Portuguese regulator. Online gambling brought in record of €138.9 million in revenue during the period. This followed first quarter results that showed that online gambling had overtaken retail in terms of revenue size.

The figures showed that online casino revenue rose dramatically by 74.1% to €83.7 million, while sports betting revenue also saw in increase of 15.9% year-on-year to €55.2 million. Total stakes rose by 62.5% to €2.53 billion, and online casino stakes climbed to €2.29 billion, which was roughly in line with revenue, while sports betting stakes fell 1.5% to €239.9 million.

But the figures also show that this may be a short lived online gambling boom, particularly when it comes to sports betting. Sports betting stakes were at their highest in January and February before falling from March onwards in line with the cancellation of sporting events due to the pandemic, though they subsequently recovered to something like pre-pandemic levels in June.

Online casino stakes rose from €286.5 million in February to a record of €479.3 million in April and €468.3 million in May, before they fell back to €371.9 million in June. Online poker accounted for a bigger share of online casino revenue in April and May, but that share has since fallen.

Speaking about the findings, the SRIJ said that the closure of land-based casinos led to an increase in the volume of online gambling, though this gradually stabilised:

“This reality seems to indicate a preference of the players to bet in a regulated and controlled environment, because even though they are ‘used’ to frequenting physical spaces to play, they chose, instead, to play on legal online sites. The increase in the volume of bets on online games of chance was observed in all types of games, keeping the relative weight of each game stable over the period.”

Although revenue was up across the board, interestingly there seems to have been no corresponding increase in the extent of new account registrations. Registrations climbed from 53,500 in January and 43,900 in February this year to 60,000 in March, but in April the figure was 53,200 and in May it fell to 33,500. At the same time, the number of licensees able to offer online casino games has climbed from 10 during the same period last year to 13.

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