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Brazil – Brazil’s gambling bill to face uphill battle in Senate

By - 4 March 2022

Brazil’s Senate will begin debating gambling bill PL 2648/2019 which was approved by the Chamber of Deputies last week.

Several senators have already spoken out against the initiative, saying that the liberalisation of the market will lead to social harm. The deputy leader of the government, Senator Carlos Viana was one of the critics according to the Brazilian Senate News Agency. 

“International experience shows that large casinos are used for money laundering, drug trafficking and prostitution. The inspection of this sector is very difficult. In addition, gambling and betting addiction is part of The International Classification of Diseases (ICD),” Senator Carlos Viana said via social media. (The ICD a globally used diagnostic tool for epidemiology, health management and clinical purposes.)

While Viana acknowledged that the legalization of games has the potential to bring revenue to the country, he stated that the revenue would not make up for the increase in spending on public health and the ensuing fight against organized crime. The leader of the government in the Chamber, Deputy Ricardo Barros said that President Jair Bolsonaro intends to veto the project if the Senate approves it.

Senator Luiz do Carmo also expressed his opposition to the bill, and asked colleagues to “reflect on the consequences” of legalization.

“[The project] is an incentive to the moral degradation of Brazilians. The economic gains that the release of games would theoretically bring about would provoke, as a reaction, more spending on the recovery of families who will suffer from the misfortunes provided by addiction to games. I strongly believe that legalizing gambling will increase indebtedness and disrupt families,” he said.

Senator Eduardo Girão said that the Chamber of Deputies had made a “hasty” decision and that the Senate needed to reverse it. Meanwhile Senator Jorge Kajuru said that the topic is “controversial” and requires “wide discussion.”

However the bill is not without its supporters. Senator Angelo Coronel defended the legalization of gambling, citing, in addition to revenue gains, job creation and opportunities to promote regional development and tourism. Coronel argued that “gambling is already present in the daily life of Brazilians. Outdated arguments put us on the side of only two G20 countries that still ban games for religious reasons and far from most countries, including our brothers in Mercosur, who already understand that gambling is an important economic activity and cannot be banned for reasons of customs only.”

Angelo Coronel is the rapporteur of the Senate proposal for the liberalisation of the industry via Bill PL 2.648/2019. The text authorizes the operation of casinos within resorts. The senator also claims that the financial volume generated by gambling banned today is higher than the money collected by Caixa Econômica Federal Bank through its lotteries. According to the senator, the legalization of the industry could generate almost 2 per cent of GDP. At the same time he recognised that attention must be paid to the concerns of other senators when it comes to the social impact that a wider liberalisation of the market would have.

“It is important to mitigate the risks of money laundering, using the structures that already operate. . .  In another area, it is necessary to indicate mechanisms of assistance to game addicts, which already exist today . . . . These are some legitimate concerns that I share and I believe they can be addressed,” he said.

The Chamber approved PL 442/1991 last Thursday (24 February) by 246 votes in favour and 202 against. The bill allows for casinos, bingo halls, the popular street lottery known as the “the animal game” and online gaming.

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