An attempt by a Brazil casino to offer the first legal gambling in the South American country came to a crashing halt when police raided the venue on Monday, after it began taking real money bets. The operators had been given “demo mode only” parameters for the property, but took it to the next level.
The Winfil Casino in Brazil’s largest southern city of Porto Alegre had initially opened in October with 460 slot machines that were all set to demonstration only mode, allowing patrons to test them out, but not to wager any actual cash. But a series of court rulings led to significant confusion over that determination.
Initially, the casino had opened by claiming that a court ruling in the state of Rio Grande do Sul (where the city is located) had lifted the ban on casino-style gaming by tolerating some other gambling activities, such as bingo halls. When the state vehemently disagreed and was able to obtain a court order to block any real money play, Winfil switched their machines to the play money demonstration mode instead.
Casino Takes Full Advantage of Injunction
Once that had happened, Judge Viviane de Faria Miranda issued a preliminary injunction, barring local authorities from seizing any of the slot machines, as they were no longer being used for actual gambling. But the casino interpreted that order in an unusual way, saying that the injunction had given them the ability to offer real money gambling in their establishment with full legality.
Judge Miranda and others quickly responded by noting that the ruling had only been about whether or not police could seize the machines in their currently configured state, and said nothing about the legality of gambling.
For a time, however, Winfil seemed to get away with its legal gambit. After beginning to take bets on Saturday, the casino reported that about 2,000 customers had played real money slots in their first weekend of operation.
Players Chant as Police Seize Money, Equipment
But that revenue boost didn’t last for long. On Tuesday, Games Magazine Brazil reported that police had seized money and machine controller boards from Winfil, despite the injunction. According to the report, authorities showed up at the casino in dozens of vehicles, while locals chanted “we just want to play!” as police conducted their raid.
The owners of the venue were also detained by local police. Winfil is owned by Rogerio Dell’Erba Guarnieri and Grupo Pefaco, which owns casinos in Paraguay and several African nations as well.
Despite the legal drama, simply having a venue established and machines ready to go may have been an effort to put Winfil in a position to capitalize, should Brazilian lawmakers choose to regulate casino gambling in the near future.
According to a report from the Brazilian news magazine Veja, Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies is planning on taking a vote sometime in November on a bill that would legalize brick-and-mortar casinos in the country. That legislation would create a regulatory framework for how gambling venues could operate and be taxed, and might allow construction to begin as early as next year.
Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson went to Brazil back in May and reportedly sat down to talk business with top-ranked decision-makers, which led to speculation that he could be considering building a casino there, when and if true legalization happens.