he relaunch of the Parliamentary Front for the Regulation of Gambling took place as the country was celebrating its National Tourism Day. Why is this activity so important to the tourism sector? João Carlos Bacelar Batista, a federal representative of Brazil’s lower House—the Chamber of Deputies—, explained that "the gaming industry’s productive chain is extremely rich."
Gambling regulation would allow for the opening of casinos, that would also come with big hotel chains that will also boost the food, transport and entertainment industries. "I do not gamble, but I’d like to visit Las Vegas because it has the best gastronomy in the world and offers a wide portfolio of international shows, among other attractions," he said in an interview with Yogonet a day after the reopening of the Front. The Parliamentary Front for the Regulation of Gambling is made up of 198 members of the Chamber of Deputies and five Senators which have committed to work on the re-incorporation of lower house bill PL 442/1991 into the legislative sessions’ agenda.
But this is not the only proposal in line for debate in the Brazilian Congress. A Senate bill, PLS 186/2014, sponsored by Senator Ciro Nogueira has also made considerable progress. Bacelar stated that the Chamber of Deputies’ project is more consolidated, but it is unlikely it will be passed this year. Still, he reminded us of President Jair Bolsonaro recent statements, which gave them reasons to remain optimistic: "Bearing in mind Brazilian customs, this kind of proposal will unlikely be approved without the support of the executive branch. We will have to wait and see what happens with the conservative and religious supporters of the president, but the president’s current stance already represents a big step to us."
A pension system reform is at the core of Brazil’s 2019 legislative session. "Until this issue has not been dealt with, there is no room to discuss gambling legalization. I believe we will be prepared to enact regulations in early 2020," he explained.
In accordance with official data, 300,000 Brazilian citizens left the country to visit gambling destinations in Latin America, the United States, and Europe in 2018. It is also estimated that between three to for leased plains fly every week with groups of people who seek to gamble at casinos in Punta del Este or Montevideo, in Uruguay.
"Brazil is the world's top exporter of gamblers. If gambling was legalized, some people would still make those trips, but we would also receive many tourists. Large casino operators are keeping an eye on the Brazilian market legal status, such as Las Vegas Sands," he added.
To illustrate the importance of Brazil to the global gaming industry—and vice-versa— the legislator shared some figures with Yogonet: about 20 million people gamble on Jogo do Bicho—an illegal lottery-like game in Brazil— which currently provides over 400,000 jobs.
Jogo do Bicho currently generates around USD 3 B a year, bingo halls produce over USD 377 M; electronic games, over USD 754 M; and the lotteries operated by Caixa Econômica Federal— a government-owned financial institution— generate over USD 3.7 B.
"According to these figures, the illegal market generates over USD 7.5 B. If casinos were allowed, they would easily generate USD 15 B in money wagered and between USD 3.7 B and 4.5 B in revenue. The gaming industry is immensely powerful," he added.
"There are no arguments against legalized gambling. I do understand there exist moral and religious reasons, but as for the economic, social, tax collection and civil rights aspects, there are no reasons to hinder legalization," he concluded.
Casinos may have to wait, but global online sports betting operators are watching Brazil closely. Among his administration’s last measures, president Michel Temer issued Medida provisória (MP) 846, a decree that authorizes online sports betting on a federal level. Legislator Evandro Roman, called a public hearing to be held on May 22 at the Chamber of Deputies, to listen to experts and discuss the implementation rules of MP 846.