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iGaming booms under lockdown as Portugal sets H1 GGR record

| By Daniel O'Boyle
Online gambling revenues drastically increased in Portugal during lockdown, with operators bringing in revenue of €138.9m, up 44.2%, in the first half of 2020, new figures from the Serviço de Regulação e Inspeção de Jogos (SRIJ) have revealed.

Portuguese online gambling revenue drastically increased under lockdown, with operators bringing in revenue of €138.9m (£125.4m/$164.4m) in the first half of 2020, up 44.2% year-on-year, new figures from the Serviço de Regulação e Inspeção de Jogos (SRIJ) reveal.

However, this boost appeared to be short-lived, with June revenue already returning to pre-pandemic levels.

Over the first half of 2020, sports betting revenue increased by 15.9% compared to the same period in 2019 to €55.2m, while online casino revenue shot up 74.1% to €83.7m. This €138.9m revenue figure came on stakes of €2.53bn, a 62.5% year-on-year increase.

Despite the growth in revenue, sports betting stakes declined 1.5% to €239.9m. Online casino stakes, meanwhile, grew roughly in line with revenue, to €2.29bn.

“We can conclude that the closure of the casinos contributed to a significant increase in the respective volume of online gambling, which gradually stabilised, approaching the values ​​prior to [the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic,” the SRIJ said.

“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 regulator did not break down revenue by quarter but sports betting stakes for the second quarter of 2020 totalled €90.7m while casino stakes came to to €1.32bn. This three-month total was higher than amounts wagered over the six months to 30 June, 2019.

Sports betting stakes were highest in January and February – before Covid-19 cleared the sporting calendar – at €61.7m and €56.7m respectively. Stakes then fell to €30.8m in March, and declining to just €7.7m in April. The vertical then began to recover in May, with amounts wagered rising to €27.4m, before returning to pre-pandemic levels in June, at €55.6m.

Football was by far the most popular sport for betting before, during and after lockdowns, ranging from a low of 71.7% of stakes in January to a high of 86.3% in June.

Tennis followed and saw a significant jump in stakes in May, making up 22.7% of bets, before falling back to 9.4% in June, close to pre-pandemic levels. Basketball was the third most popular sport for betting, but the suspension of the NBA, which only resumed in July, meant stakes were much lower in the second quarter of the year than the first.

Turning to casino games, stakes came to €304.9m in January and €286.5m in February, before increasing under lockdown when land-based casinos were closed. In March, players staked €381.8m while in April this figure grew to €479.3m and stakes remained high in May at €468.3m before June saw amounts wagered fall to €371.9m.

“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,” the regulator noted.

Online poker helped drive the growth in revenue, however, as it saw a growth in stakes from 9.4% of overall casino stakes in February to a high of 14.4% in April. However this again appears short-lived, as poker made up a smaller portion of casino revenue in June than in January or February.

Online slots remained the most popular game, but declined in popularity slightly under lockdown, from 69.9% of stakes in January and 74.4% in February to 61.3% in April before growing to 66.9% again in June.

While revenue grew, there was not as an significant increase in the number of new account registrations during the lockdown period. While new registrations did peak in March at 60,000, this was not far above January’s 53,500 of February’s 43,900, while registrations then fell in April to 53,200 and to a low of 33,500 in May before recovering slightly in June.

New registrations made up 18% of casino players in March and April, compared to just 3.5% of sports bettors.

As of 30 June, 10 licensees were permitted to offer sports in Portugal, and 13 were licensed to offer casino games, an increase from 8 and 10 respectively at this point in 2019.

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