Brazil Gambling Bill to Legalize Casinos and Internet Gaming Approved by Senate Committee

Posted on: November 13, 2016, 12:00h. 

Last updated on: November 13, 2016, 12:02h.

Brazil gambling legislation Senate
Brazil gambling legislation to authorize casinos, sports betting, and online gaming will soon be considered by the nation’s Senate. (Image: European Pressphoto Agency)

Brazil gambling legislation has been a topic of consideration in the country’s federal government over the last several years, but today betting remains illegal in South America’s largest country.

Gambling has been outlawed in Brazil for the last 70 years, but lawmakers in the National Congress are trying to change that through a wide-reaching gaming bill. This week, the Senate’s Special Committee on National Development approved the gambling legislation and moved the bill to the chamber’s floor.

Officially known as PLS 186/2014, the statute would authorize land-based casinos, sports betting, bingo halls, horse racing wagering, and internet gambling.

Highly popular Jogo do Bicho, a type of lottery that is currently run by criminal enterprises, would also emerge from the underground and gain legal status.

The Special Committee, nor the legislation, detailed what forms of gambling would be permitted to operate online. The act also doesn’t detail the number of land-based casinos and betting shops that would be permitted to operate.

But for a country in fiscal turmoil, the gambling bill’s advancement to the general Senate floor is a major development.

“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 desperate need for additional tax revenue,” Eilers & Krejcik Gaming opined recently. 

Billions at Stake

When 2016 ends, Brazil’s government will be upwards of $5.5 billion short in expected revenue. The gap is the result of a collapsing oil production industry and dwindling middle class.

Brazil’s economy experienced nearly two decades of growth between the mid 1990s and 2010. But six years ago, Brazil suffered an economic contraction, and the country’s primary exports collapsed on reduced demand.

Dilma Rousseff was ousted from the presidency in the summer of 2016 after it was revealed that she concealed the country’s dismal finances in order to win re-election. Brazil’s credit rating was downgraded by Standard & Poor’s to BBB, a classification just above a junk rating.

Legalizing casino gambling would generate substantial new tax revenues for the country. It’s estimated that more than $4 billion is bet on Jogo do Bicho each year alone.

Catch-Up Game

Adding insult to Brazil’s injured financial state is of course the 2016 Summer Olympics. Though the Games went off without any major problem, the host country is on the hook for footing the bill that exceeded forecasted costs.

When all was said and done, the price tag for the 17-day sports extravaganza totaled $4.56 billion. While that’s $10 billion cheaper than the 2012 Olympics in London, Rio still overspent by 51 percent.

If Brazil would have legalized sports betting and gambling prior to the Summer Games, the country could have theoretically benefited from the influx of tourists to the country through gaming.

William Hill, one of the world’s largest betting brands, says it’s not too late. The British bookie recently said legalizing casinos in Brazil “would be one of the most significant events in gaming history.”

The fifth-largest country by population and land area, economists believe Brazil could pull in close to $3 billion a year in casino tax revenue should it take steps to legalize.