A brand new gambling site was launched earlier this week, offering legal online casino games to Portuguese customers. Operated by well-established gaming operator Estoril Sol SGPS SA that already runs three land-based gambling establishments in the country, this website known as Estroilsolcasinos.pt will cater to the avid Portuguese market. It will offer them 18 games, which can be played on PCs or mobile devices. The gaming platform currently offers video slots as well as blackjack and roulette, and will certainly add to these games in the near future.
Estoril Sol already has a lot of experience in the gaming industry. With total revenues of around €182 million, this company accounts for almost 70% of Portugal’s gaming business. The company is closely associated with Macau-based gambling tycoon, Stanley Ho Hung Sun.
So, who is Stanley Ho?
Nicknamed The King of Gambling, Stanley Ho is the 13th richest man in Hong Kong. His net worth is about US $2 billion! He’s the richest in Macau and among the wealthiest in Asia as well. He’s a powerful industrial and entrepreneur in Asia so much so that his statements and opinions on Hong Kong’s commercial development as well as real estate has had a considerable sway on the market.
Ho handed over the reins of Sociedade de Turismo e Diversões de Macau (STDM) to his daughter Pansy Ho. Pansy Ho Chiu King, Ho’s daughter and co-chairperson of MGM China Holdings Ltd, is also on the board of the Portuguese gambling company. She is a 50% partner in MGM Macau. Interestingly, the gambling regulator in Macau doesn’t permit online gambling yet.
Ho’s son, Lawrence Ho is the CEO of another Macau-based company, Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd.
Ho’s SJM Holdings shares many senior executives with Estoril Sol, apart from Ho himself. These executives include Rui Cunha and Ambrose So Shu Fai who are on the board of the Portuguese company. It is interesting to note that none of these executives are shareholders at Estoril Sol, but instead control it through Finansol – Sociedade de Controlo, SGPS.
The three casinos that Estoril Sol operates include Casino Estoril, Casino Lisboa, and Casino da Póvoa. The company has collaborated with technology firm Gaming1 which is part of the Brussels-based Ardent Group to launch the gaming site. Gaming1 is also an established company with many clients.
While Portuguese gamblers no doubt enjoy online gambling on a whole lot of unauthorized sites, this is the first website that offers legal casino gambling. Local regulator Serviço Regulação e Inspeção de Jogos do Turismo de Portugal (SRIJ) has given this site a license valid for three years. The tightly controlled Portuguese online gambling space now has three operators in total. The first was Betclic.pt, an online sportsbook operated by French company Betclic Everest and it was followed by another sports betting site operated by Bet Entertainment.
The Estoril site is likely to do very well, particularly in comparison with the sports betting sites. The former will have to pay a gross gaming revenue tax of 15% whereas the latter sites will have to pay a betting turnover tax of 8%. It is therefore no surprise that a few other land based gambling operators are also clamouring for online licenses. Another company that might be permitted to take business online is land based casino operator Solverde. The government owned lottery operator Santa Casa da Misericordia de Lisboa might also have a gambling website in the near future. A long awaited online poker site has been held up while the Portuguese government completes talks with the European Commission regarding liquidity sharing with companies based in other countries. Liquidity sharing is very important in this business or else operators will not be competitive enough.