Brazil could legalise a wide array of gambling activities before the new year, with land-based casinos, bingo parlors, “jogo de bicho”, sports-betting and “electronic betting” all name-checked in a liberalisation bill to be voted on in December.
With gross public debt at almost three-quarters of GDP, the Latin American country might be ready to reverse its 70-year-old gambling ban on everything from poker to the popular “jogo do bicho” lottery-type game in a desperate grab for tax revenue.
The Federal Senate will vote on the proposed legislation early December, meaning a verdict will be delivered before the Christmas parliamentary break, which begins December 22.
Meanwhile, the Chamber of Deputies – Brazil’s lower house – saw its planned vote on the bill disrupted by an invasion of their debating floor in mid-November by a mob of protesters angry with government cuts to social programs.
Californian research firm Eilers and Krejcik Gaming said: “This year’s expansion proposal has the best odds of passing in over a decade due to the current state of the Brazilian economy and a desperate need for additional tax revenues.”
However, CalvinAyre.com reported a conspiracy – aided by the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops – to stop the bill being put to a ballot.
The newly formed group, called the Mixed Parliamentary Front for a Brazil Without Games of Chance, comprises 209 deputies, eight senators, an unknown number of members of other organisations, as well as – of course – lots of bishops.
The group’s main arguments are that gambling will not bring any additional tourists, and that no net tax revenue will be raised due to the need to spend additional government money on health, security and infrastructure post- legalisation of gambling.
Illegal gambling in Brazil, with a population of 207 million people, is worth around $6.4bn annually, according to the Brazilian Legal Gaming Institute. If it were legalised, Brazil would become the world’s largest regulated gambling jurisdiction.
Brazil’s president, Michel Temer, said at the end of October that he would approve any pro-gambling bills that made it onto his desk.
However, president Temer’s three percent approval rating and fast-approaching end-of-term date (roughly a year away) mean pro-gambling force cannot be confident of having an ally in the executive branch for long.