A Brazilian casino bill introduced last month would authorize the creation of up to 32 integrated resorts in the country, a move that it’s hoped will provide a transformative boost to the country’s tourism industry.

Brazil casino

Jair Bolsonaro and Donald Trump met at the White House this week to exchange soccer jerseys and discuss trade and “fake news.” But while Bolsonaro has said he is a fan of the former Atlantic City casino owner, he’s not sold on the idea of legalizing casinos back home. (Image: Evan Vucci/AP)

But if it’s going to happen, representatives of Brazil’s existing hotel sector say they want a piece of the pie.

Democrat politician Paulo Azi’s bill would permit states with a population of 15 million people or fewer to establish one integrated resort, while those with populations of between 15 and 25 million could have two. The only state to qualify for three would be São Paolo, with 45 million inhabitants.

International Interest

The type of casino resorts Azi has in mind are the type of sprawling, opulent integrated resorts that are built by US companies like LVS and MGM — both of which have expressed an interest in Brazil — but President of the Brazilian Association of Resorts, Alberto Cestrone, this week urged the legislature to allow existing hotel resorts to participate in a future casino market.

While we understand that casinos are important for the generation of employment and taxes, we ask the parliament to consider existing resorts as an ideal space for the installation of casinos,” he told a meeting of the Joint Parliamentary Front in Defense of Tourism.

“[Existing] resorts are a natural product to absorb such a venture. They do not need big investments and have good gastronomy and structure already in place to make it work,” he added.

Casinos, along with most games of chance, have been prohibited in Brazil since 1946, but the legislature has been debating their legalization since at least 2014. Initial proposals also included online gaming regulation, which has since been ditched, although lawmakers managed to legalize land-based and online sports betting last year.

Brazil Casino Bill Success Not Guaranteed

A wider gambling reform package has stalled in the legislature since 2016, although it is, apparently, still alive. Last month, the General Committee of the House of Deputies voted to tag Azi’s bill onto the package, which would also authorize and license bingo, state lotteries, and the jogo do bicho (“the animal game), a kind of lottery game popular in Brazil but currently illegal.

The election of Brazil’s new far-right, populist president Jair Bolsonaro — who met with Donald Trump this week to discuss trade — could be a monkey wrench in the works, however. Bolsonaro derives his core support from Evangelical Christians

Prior to his election, Bolsonaro said the idea that he would legalize casino was “nonsense,” adding that they would be used as a money-laundering tool and would be “detrimental to Brazilian homes … causing major family chaos.”