The history of land-based casino gambling in Portugal goes back over a hundred years. Since then a lot of things have changed in gambling legislation and casino ownership and in the past two decades, online gambling has also appeared.

Portugal now has 12 land-based casinos—some of these are world-class establishments. In this article, we are digging into the history of the country’s casinos with the help of Portuguese iGaming expert Victoria Oliveira.

Online gambling

Online gambling is not prohibited in Portugal. In 2015, the country passed a law that enables operators to apply for a Portuguese gambling license from the Portuguese Gambling Regulatory Authority (SRIJ). Many online casino operators, such as Casino Moosh, took this opportunity and acquired the license so when you play at these sites, rest assured, you are in good hands.

These online Portuguese gambling sites have to offer the platform in Portuguese, must accept euro currency and have to have a branch in Portugal if they were not incorporated in the country. They also must have anti-money laundering procedures in place and have to have sufficient security deposits.

The first land-based casino

Unless you are into casino statistics, you are probably not aware that the biggest casino in Europe is, in fact, in Portugal. Casino Estoril, situated on the Portuguese Riviera in the municipality of Cascais was the first established land-based casino in the country. Construction was started by President Dr Bernardino Machado in 1916.

First, the building was rather primitive and during WW2 it was the gathering point for spies. In fact, this image gave the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s novel Casino Royale. During the 60s a Portuguese businessman named José Teodoro dos Santos acquired the building, extended it and spent a lot of money on decorating it. The casino became a fashionable meeting place where great entertainment was to be found.

Casino Estoril was the first casino in Portugal but since then a number of new casinos have opened. According to Portuguese law, would-be casino operators must be granted a concession to operate legally in the country. At the moment, the following twelve casinos have entered into concession agreements:

  • Casino de São Miguel
  • Casino de Vilamoura
  • Casino de Monte Gordo
  • Casino de Portimão
  • Casino de Espinho
  • Casino da Figueira da Foz
  • Casino do Estoril
  • Casino de Lisboa
  • Casino da Póvoa de Varzim
  • Casino de Tróia
  • Casino de Chaves
  • Casino da Madeira

Online gambling

Online gambling is not prohibited in Portugal. In 2015, the country passed a law that enables operators to apply for a Portuguese gambling license from the Portuguese Gambling Regulatory Authority (SRIJ). Many online casino operators, such as Betway Casino, took this opportunity and acquired the license so when you play at these sites, rest assured, you are in good hands.

These online Portuguese gambling sites have to offer the platform in Portuguese, must accept euro currency and have to have a branch in Portugal if they were not incorporated in the country. They also must have anti-money laundering procedures in place and have to have sufficient security deposits.

Gambling in Macau

Again, if you are a history buff, you know that Macau used to be a Portuguese colony. If we consider that, Portugal has a much longer history in the world of gambling. Gambling in Portugal only started with Casino Estoril, but it has a much longer past in Macau. In 1849, the Portuguese government legalized gambling in order to generate revenue and by the end of the 19th century, it introduced a licensing system. Over 200 gambling houses took out the license and casino gambling became very popular.

Nowadays, Macau is referred to as the “Monte Carlo of the Orient” and attracts visitors mainly from mainland China and Hong Kong. Although Macau was handed back to the People’s Republic of China in 1999, it still feels Portuguese. Casinos generate over 40% of the GDP of Macau and by 2007 revenues overtook those of the Las Vegas Strip. The three largest casino resorts in the world are all in Macau with Venetian Macau leading the list.

Conclusion

Even though Portugal cannot compete with Las Vegas or Monte Carlo in terms of casino revenues, the small Southern European country has a long history in casino gambling. When you consider that the oldest and one of the biggest casinos in Europe is near the Portuguese capital you surely have a reason to visit Portugal on your next holiday. Feeling more adventurous? Visit the Portuguese ex-colony Macau and be blown away by the biggest casinos in the world.