The ongoing Covid-19 shutdown has raised concerns across Europe about the potential risk of increased problem gambling, and now one nation is set to take action on the issue.
The government of Portugal is considering a law that will limit or ban all online gambling for the duration of the lockdown. The bill, which was introduced this week, was introduced in order to curb the rapid growth of online gambling in the country. Figures show that revenue in the online gambling sector has jumped by 18% since a state of emergency was declared in the country on March 18.
Within that 18% figure, there has been a significant rise of 24% in online casino gaming revenue since the start of the crisis. That figure has caused alarm among Portugal’s politicians and a number of organisations concerned about the risk of gambling harm.
The result is Bill 326, introduced by members of the environmentalist party Partido das Pessoas dos Animais e da Natureza (PAN). It does not outline what specific measures should be brought into effect. But it calls for the total or partial limitation of access to gambling sites online, emphasising that action must be taken in order to protect the vulnerable.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the online gambling sector in Portugal was already thriving. Figures released for the final quarter of 2019 showed a significant increase in revenue. But there is growing concern in many gambling jurisdictions about the risk of escalating social harm as a result of populations self-isolating en masse. A number of gambling regulators, including the UK Gambling Commission, have issued warnings to operators on ensuring that their marketing is responsible and appropriate during the shutdown, and the industry is likely to focus intense scrutiny over the coming weeks as the crisis continues in most European nations.