Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro Pledges to Veto Casino Legislation

Posted on: September 29, 2021, 11:59h. 

Last updated on: September 29, 2021, 12:23h.

Lawmakers in Brazil continue to debate statutes that would legalize gambling in the South American country. But President Jair Bolsonaro says they’re likely wasting their time.

Brazil gambling casino sports betting Jair Bolsonaro
Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro will not lend his support to legalized casino gambling. But he is allowing sports betting to move forward. (Image: EPA)

Bolsonaro stated this week that any gaming legislation that is passed by Brazil’s National Congress should be assumed dead on arrival to his desk.

“If it moves forward, I will veto the proposal,” Bolsonaro declared of gaming-related efforts.

Gambling represents loss rather than winnings. If, by any chance, the regulation is approved, I have the chance to veto it. The Congress can override the veto, but what is being discussed right now will end up with me vetoing it. Period,” Bolsonaro affirmed.

Brazilian politicians have long been considering ending its gaming prohibition. Such legislative efforts have gained much attention from the world’s largest casino operators.

Most notably, the late billionaire Sheldon Adelson — the founder, chairman, and CEO of Las Vegas Sands until his January 2021 death — made several trips to Brazil to scout potential integrated resort locations.

Potential Opportunity

Brazil’s economy, like so many others, is reeling because of the global health pandemic. Supporters of bringing casinos to the country believe the gaming resorts would help offset tax losses caused by COVID-19.

“If we introduce a new revenue source, then we will be able to reduce the current tax burden,” said Senator Angelo Coronel (PSD-Bahia). “How do we accomplish that? Through legalized gambling.”

Magno José, the president of the Instituto do Jogo Legal — a public policy think tank in Brazil that researches and encourages legislative considerations regarding gambling – says casino resorts would be an economic lifesaver. The research center concludes that a mature gaming industry with multiple destination gaming resorts could yield $5 billion in annual gross gaming revenue.

Market forecasts additionally project that a gaming industry would employ at least 200,000 people, and generate annual tax receipts of $1.3 billion.

Earlier this month, a congressional committee was formed to review numerous pieces of legislation that seek to authorize a variety of gambling, including casinos, bingo halls, and iGaming.

Brazil passed a bill to legalize sports betting in late 2018. But specific regulations haven’t been approved. However, sports betting is one exception Bolsonaro has allowed in his resistance to gambling. The president approved tax rules on sports betting in July. Legal sportsbooks are expected to go live early next year.

Presidential Power

Bolsonaro opines that casinos are not Brazil’s economic answer, as he believes any fiscal benefits come at a societal cost. But while Bolsonaro is the top government official in Brazil, his authority can be undermined by way of a veto override.

A successful veto override has already occurred during Bolsonaro’s administration. Last November, the Congress overrode a Bolsonaro veto of a payroll tax exemption extension.

Lawmakers argued in their overriding of the president that ending the payroll tax indemnity, which was put into effect in response to COVID-19, would result in job losses. Keeping people employed, a majority in Congress voted, outweighed in importance the estimated $1.7 billion in tax revenue losses the extension will cause.

José argues that legalizing gambling would help the government, while also helping those battling gambling addictions from their participation in illegal bookmaking markets.

“In Brazil, as we do not have legal gambling, we also don’t have a public policy to deal with problem gambling,” José declared.