Brazil’s National Congress Won’t Discuss 2018 Gaming Bill
Despite perennial rumors that Brazil could adopt a pro-gambling stance, it appears that the Brazilian legislature will not discuss a casino bill before the end of 2018. At least that is the position of Magnho Jose, the director of Brazil’s Legal Gambling Institute (IJL).
Magnho Jose said in a recent interview, “Brazil will hardly discuss a gambling bill before the end of the year. I think is extremely unlikely that one of the two proposed laws will be discussed at Congress before October, since we are in the middle of the election and that hinders legislative processes.”
Mr. Jose told Yogonet that the current lack of gaming regulations greatly favors the underground gambling economy, which he assured is rampant in Brazil. The head of the IJL emphasized the moral element to regulating gambling in Brazil.
Legal Gambling Institute
Magnho Jose pointed out, “The moral aspect of gambling is crucial as regards its legalization in Brazil….Brazil cannot remain in this shameful situation in which the government does not provide a solution against illegal gambling.”
The Legal Gambling Institute’s head said he remains optimistic that Brazil’s politicians eventually will address the country’s gaming laws, though he is cautiously optimistic. Magnho Jose said, “I believe that after the elections, there is a minimal but existent chance of discussing this issue at Congress.”
PLS 186/14: Senate Gaming Bill
Two proposed gaming bills are active in the National Congress of Brazil. Each would liberalize the gaming economy and bring the country’s long gambling history out of the shadows. Jose said, “regardless of the outcome, Brazil has never been as close as now to legalize gambling, because both bills being discussed at the Chamber of Deputies and at the Senate depend on the voting of the full Chambers.”
In the Brazilian Senate, PLS 186/14 was debated and rejected. Senator Ciro Nogueira wrote the bill, which would legalize games of chance throughout the national territory. The games it covers appears to be sports betting, social gaming, and “leisure”. Noguiero’s bill states it would define “administrative offenses and crimes as a result of breaches of the rules concerning the operation of games of chance.”
Noguiero’s bill was unanimously approved by Special Committee on National Development in November 2016, but failed to reach the floor of the Senate throughout 2017 and 2018.
PL 442/9: Chamber of Deputies Gaming Bill
In the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies, PL 442/9 is the favored plan for regulated gambling. Alexandre Sampaio of the Brazilian Federation of Lodging and Food (FBHA) and Alberto Cestrone of the Brazilian Association of Resorts (ABR) lobbied to have the bill passed, but the Senate’s Constitution and Justice Commission blocked the bill.
Alberto Cestrone said of their work on the legislation, “We worked for the approval, which could bring a significant increase to resort[s] and tourism. The veto suprised [us], above all, becuase the text provided tax benefits for each state that received casinos.”
The ABR president added, “Resorts are a natural product to absorb such a venture. It does not need big investments and still has good infrastructure ready to make it work.”
Perspectives on Brazilian Gambling: Manoel Linhares and Manuel Gama
Manoel Linhares of the Brazilian Association of Hotel Industry (ABIH) said Brazil already has a significant amount of gambling, then added, “The legalization is important, which has prevented the generation of revenues in the Brazilian economy, and the difficult moment the country is in.”
Manuel Gama of the Forum of Hotel Operators of Brazil (FOHB) was not as enthusiastic as his peers. Mr. Gama said future bills need to define the limits of Brazilian hotel-casinos, adding, “It can not be something without limits, that anyone can build. We must make the few enterprises good enough to generate income in Brazil.”
Alexandre Sampaio said Manuel Gama’s concerns about over-saturation are unwarranted. The FBHA director said, “The market regulates itself. For Rio de Janeiro, a city with a strong tourist vocation, it would be great to approve, especially for the Barra da Tijuca hotel, which is idle.”
Sheldon Adelson’s Rio Casino Plans
At one point, Sheldon Adelson was optimistic enough about a Brazilian casino bill that he visited Rio de Janeiro to scout out locations for a land-based casino. While establishing friendships with Rio’s local politicians and accepting awards from them, Adelson pledged to invest as much as $8 billion in a Rio casino.
Given the city’s tourism and Brazil’s status as an emerging big economy, the CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corporation has to see a huge economic potential in a Venetian Rio de Janeiro Resort & Casino. As a comparison, Sheldon Adelson once pledged to invest $10 billion in a Japanese integrated casino-resort.
Casino Bill in Rousseff Years
According to Mangho Jose, getting past the election cycle is key, whatever happens during the vote. Jose added, “Once Congress sessions are resumed after the elections, these alternatives have chances of being discussed by the respective Chambers, since Brazil cannot remain in this shameful situation in which the government does not provide a solution for illegal gambling. Gambling cannot continue to be illegal for more than 72 years.”
These are not the first recent attempts to legalize casino gambling in Brazil. Attempts to modernize Brazil’s gaming laws have been on the agenda since 2014. The country’s lawmakers discussed a gambling bill in the latter stages of Dilma Rousseff’s tenure, but many viewed her administration’s legislative initiatives as efforts to distract from her scandals. Whether true or not, Rousseff did not have the political capital to champion too many bills in the National Congress.