It was less than a year ago when first regulated online gambling operations commenced in Portugal. And it was not before late November that the country’s first online poker license was granted to PokerStars. The .pt website of the world’s largest online poker operator went off with flying colors. Back then, it was expected that the initial interest could wear off with time passing by. It can be said now, three and a half months later, that the above prognosis may have proved to be correct to a certain extent.
The Portuguese gambling regulator – Serviços de Regulação e Inspeção de Jogos (SRIJ) – has been taking its time in issuing iGaming licenses since the local market was officially regulated last spring. The regulatory body has issued only six online gaming and betting licenses so far, with PokerStars still being the sole online poker operator in the southern European country.
The popular brand went live in the local market on November 29, shortly after it had received the necessary regulatory green light from SRIJ. PokerStars registered more than excellent traffic numbers upon launch and in the following weeks. As seen on PokerScout, a fortnight after the poker room’s .pt website was launched, the number of players online averaged 43,000, of whom around 2,000 played cash games over a seven-week period.
Several months after the poker website’s launch, PokerScout is showing slightly different, yet still not bad figures. At the time this article is produced, there are 37,357 players online. In comparison, there are 12,203 players on PokerStars’ .it website, 12,559 players on its .fr website, and 18,672 players on its .es website. Here it is once again important to note that PokerStars is the only licensed online poker operator in Portugal, while it has several competitors in each of the three ring-fenced markets mentioned above.
There are at present 122 Portuguese players to be playing cash games on the .pt poker website, compared to 349 cash game players on .fr, 232 such players on .it, and 141 on .es. As seen on PokerScout, there was an average of 750 Portuguese online cash game players over the past seven days. The same number was registered on PokerStars’ .fr and .it websites. There was an average of 650 cash game players on .es.
These latest traffic stats show that initial interest has indeed worn off a bit in Portugal. However, here it is important to note that given the country’s population of around 10.3 million people (World Bank: 2015), it can be said that its online poker market is a relatively small one, particularly when compared to the segregated markets of Italy, France, and Spain, for example. This is why there is nothing concerning about the above figures.
PokerStars’ performance in the local market clearly shows that there is a demand for regulated online poker in Portugal. On the other hand, it is still rather difficult to say how many online poker operators the country’s market will be able to sustain in its current ring-fenced form. In fact, this may be the actual reason behind SRIJ’s decision to wait for a little while before approving the entrance of another poker operator.
Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, and French regulators are working on the establishment of a network that would combine their player pools. Started by France last summer, the shared liquidity push is seen as a potential booster to the involved countries’ segregated poker markets.