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Brazil – Brazilian government closes Winfil slot parlour in Porto Alegre

By - 6 April 2018

The local government has finally banned the Winfil gaming house from operating in the city of Porto Alegre.

The Municipal Secretariat of Economic Development has ruled that the establishment is operating games of chance in contravention of its license. As a result, its licence was revoked and the establishment was closed down last week. According to an official government statement, the activity of gambling “consists of a criminal offense,” and the case is now the focus of an investigation by the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

The Winfil gaming house opened on October 19 with games offered in demonstration mode only. The establishment houses 40 different types of games, 460 machines and the Parisian themed slot parlour is able to accommodate 1500 people and includes a restaurant. However just eleven days later State Police forces alongside members of the Public Prosecutor’s Office served a search and seizure warrant on the establishment as it had begun to offer cash money bets. Police seized money, and gaming components including controller boards during the raid. Police carried out another raid shortly afterwards after it was found to be offering cash bets. In January 2018, it was reported that the slot parlour was once again taking real money bets with local law enforcement officials poised to take further action.

In March a lawyer representing Winfil said that despite bingo and video bingo machines being banned in Brazil, the operator would wait to hear how new legislation pans out before closing its properties or developing them further. Apart from the establishment located in the south of Porto Alegre 13 more branches are registered at a state and local level ten of which are in Rio Grande do Sul, two in Santa Catarina and one in Brasilia, according to local press.

The existence of bingo halls, in what in many instances amounts to a legal vacuum, continues to cause controversy. This is especially true when it comes to bingo halls in Porto Alegre, the capital of the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. This is because a number of bingo halls reopened after local state magistrates ruled in their favour last year. Magistrates for the local Criminals Appeals Panel ruled that gaming does not constitute a criminal offence because the 1941 law, which outlawed gambling as part of Brazil’s Criminal Contravention Act, violates principles laid out in the 1988 Constitution. The Brazilian constitution was rewritten in 1988 after civilian rule returned to Brazil after more than two decades of military government.

In addition local bingo hall owners are hoping that the provisional measures passed in 2004, which banned bingo halls, have expired. However, while magistrates have acquitted defendants in a number of cases it does not necessarily mean that bingo halls have been given the green light as there are currently no rules in place, which expressly allow them to do so. In addition, the state Public Prosecution Service has appealed the acquittals to the Federal Supreme Court. As a result, it is now up to the Federal Supreme Court to decide if gaming is an illicit activity under Brazilian law.

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