Waiting for Brazil to legalise betting can feel like watching paint dry. Its enormous grey market has not been enough to spur lawmakers into action, says CEO of Betconsult Edgar Lenzi – but American momentum could make the difference.
iGAMING TIMES: It seems Brazil is forever on the verge of launching its sports betting market. Why does it keep not happening?
EDGAR LENZI: Two big issues have been presented as being the most important ones with regards to gambling not having been approved in Brazil yet.
The first one is definitely the lack of consensus on what gambling types to be legalised.
Since there are two bills that discuss exclusively the matter in the Brazilian congress (one of the senate and one of the house of representatives) not having a common list of gambling types and licenses formats, has slowed down the legalisation process.
The other issue is the resistance from many congressmen that are in favor of a more conservative agenda, in support of the religious sector.
At this time, there is still no consensus on the matter, and still a political debate on whether a “casino only” model should be adopted or a model with more gam- bling types, in a new tourism bill.
iGAMING TIMES: There have been various reports in local media of the relent- less appeal of the ‘animal game’ and a new sports betting spin off – lotto de bicho – developed in time for the World Cup. How extensive is Brazil’s pre- regulated betting market?
EL: Currently, any types of gambling are illegal in Brazil, including sports betting and the “jogo do bicho” game.
Brazil is a big market for sports betting nonetheless. It’s also big for websites that offer sports-related free prizes, but that don’t, however, offer sports betting. We can’t explain the size of this operation, because there aren’t statistics yet.
We do know “Jogo do bicho” is very very big, and popular. With more than 20 million players per day, and with hundreds of thousand bettings points, it means that any product using the same chain will be big as well.
iGAMING TIMES: How sophisticated are Brazil’s enforcement capabilities – and do they act as much of a deterrent?
EL: Brazil has many anti-crime mechanisms, especially with the federal police (Brazilian FBI) in crimes related with money laundering, tax evasion, and other federal crimes. There is also the state civil police for crimes related with illegal gambling.
Enforcement capabilities include sophisticated money laundering investigation mechanisms as well as other judicial possibilities such as bank accounts blocking, tele- phone interception, fiscal secrecy break, domains blocking by backbone, among other measures.
However, neither police entity has been particularly effective at fighting these crimes related with gambling.
“Jogo do bicho” is an illegal operation; the operators work illegally, and without identification.
In terms of the online sports betting sector, there are many international company working in the Brazilian market, like Bet365, Sportingbet, 188bet, Bet90, Bodog, Bumbet, among many others.
iGAMING TIMES: In what ways might the fervour for sports betting in North America spur more legislative activity in the South, and Brazil in particular?
EZ: It is very common that once something works in the USA it spreads to other nations. And, with regards to sports betting, it is surely safe to say the same may happen here.
In Brazil, although it is illegal, sports betting is already very popular,
especially when done by the internet, and in some regions for land-based as well.
Brazil has two specific bills in congress for the legalization of gambling and a third bill that will introduce changes in the tourism sector, that can also have included provisions for the legalisation of gambling.
The Secretary of Fiscal Assistance, Energy and Lottery (SEFEL) and also the secretariat of the Ministry of Finance, are already working to prepare a project to regulate sports betting, online and land-based – maybe with multi-licenses.
Colombia recently legalised and regulated sports betting, and now Peru is working for it, but I don’t have a definitive timeline.