Estoril Sol is owned by Portuguese operator Sociedade de Turismo e Diversões de Macau (STDM). The parent company saw their profits drop by 95% in 2014 and they blame those losses on increased taxes from the government and dwindling revenue due to illegal casinos. To add insult to the injury the government opted to hand out online gaming licenses to new companies rather than offer them exclusively to existing land-based operators.
The board of Estoril Sol includes important names such as Stanley Ho Hung Sun as Chairman, Pansy Ho Chiu King, Ambrose So Shu Fai, and banker Patrick Huen Wing Ming. The 93 year old Stanley Ho is the founder of the company and widely regarded as the father of Macau gambling, having held a virtual monopoly there for forty years and helping the Mainland Chinese government with the enclave’s transition from Portuguese dominion to the Chinese in 1999. He is the father of Pansy Ho Chiu King and her sibling Lawrence Ho of Melco Crown. Pansy Ho also owns a 50% stake in MGM Macau.
A major complaint of the board is in regard to the Portuguese government’s casino tax regime. Their casino in Póvoa de Varzim gives up as much as 65% of their gaming revenue for taxes. The casino posted a loss in 2014 of €7.15m. The other two casinos, Casino Estoril and Casino Lisboa pay as much as 50%.
The board said, “The less gaming revenues are generated, the more taxes have to be paid.”
Taxes are not the company’s only concern. “The State allowed online gaming companies to operate illegally in Portugal to the point that Tourism of Portugal, the entity supervising and monitoring the Portuguese casinos, sponsored a national motorcycle racing championship in partnership with one of those illegal operators,” the operator stated.
In regard to online gaming they seem dumbfounded that the government offered up licenses to new ventures when they feel they already paid for the right to operate online when they received their casino licenses. Taxes on the online casinos, who will receive three-year licenses and be regulated by Santa Casa de Misericordia de Lisboa, will be from 15-30% for casino games, poker, and bingo. Sports betting operations will only tender 8-16%.
Land casinos such as those operated by Estoril Sol have significantly higher overhead and operational costs than online casinos which can be staffed with a handful of people, and provide no hospitality services nor in person VIP hosts.
Portuguese Secretary of State for Tourism, Adolfo Mesquita Nunes said, “We are preparing everything so that on June 28 the technical control structure is operating [for online casinos]. We want to sign up as many operators as possible, particularly international operators.”