Brazil Considers Legalizing Gambling, Casino Operators Want In

Posted on: September 5, 2016, 04:00h. 

Last updated on: October 12, 2016, 08:37h.

Brazil is fresh off of the Summer Olympics, and the country now appears to be ready to end gambling prohibition. The fifth-largest country by both land area and population, gambling in Brazil has been banned for the last 70 years.

Brazil gambling legalization Michel Temer
Brazil President Michel Temer is expected to support gambling regulation should his country’s legislature put a bill on his desk. (Image: Evaristo Sa/AFP Photo)

But in a fiscal crisis, lawmakers in the country’s capital of Brasilia are apparently ready to regulate a lottery, and perhaps even legalize casino-style gambling. The taxable proceeds would provide a substantial boost to the federal government.

Both the upper and lower houses of Brazil’s legislature are considering bills to regulate gambling and sports betting.

Senator Fernando Bezerra Coelho’s bill is the leading candidate and would authorize land-based and online gambling. Other politicians believe it would be best to take one step at a time and delay legalizing internet casinos.

Lottery Regulation

The most popular form of gambling in Brazil is Jogo do Bicho, a type of lottery that is currently operated by criminal bosses. The widespread format is played by all demographics, and is estimated to be pulling in upwards of $4 billion annually.

Jogo do Bicho is well-known and not necessarily underground, but the lottery-type drawing is still illegal. Unlike common lotteries in the US where tickets are sold at specific prices, in Brazil, bettors can wager any amount, from one real to thousands.

Players pick numbers by choosing coinciding animals.

Superstitions often play a strong role in determining which animal to pick. Brazilians frequently select their animal based on a dream, physical encounter, or emotional feeling.

Local drawings are held at 2 pm in known Bicho establishments. The winning number and its corresponding animal is scribbled in chalk on designated walls throughout towns and cities. It wouldn’t be too difficult for law enforcement to clamp down on the Bicho operations. But except for a few instances, the government hasn’t seemed too interested in going after lottery operators.

Tax proceeds for Brazil are going to come in more than $5.5 billion short in 2016, as oil production has collapsed in the country, making new forms of revenue imperative. That’s why legislators are now looking at the lottery, and gaming companies in both the US and UK have shown interest in getting on board if that should happen.

William Hill recently told London’s Financial Times that legalizing gambling “would be one of the most significant events in gaming history” for the South American nation. And The Innovation Group, a worldwide casino market and business analysis firm, is currently developing a national gaming model for Brazil.

Too Little, Too Late

Like any other developing country, Brazil certainly has had its share of problems. Dilma Rousseff was removed from the presidency on August 31, following indications that by breaking financial laws, she had largely caused the country’s dire economic straits.

Engulfed with environmental, criminal, and construction standard concerns, the country seemingly pulled off a Hail Mary in Rio last month with the 2016 Olympics. But along with numerous scandals, including the controversial Ryan Lochte disaster, the event’s cost, initially forecast at $12 billion, ballooned into an estimated $20b, the last thing Brazil’s life-support-level financial picture needs right now.