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Brazil – Governor of Rio de Janeiro comes out in support of casinos

By - 9 January 2019

Newly elected Governor of Rio de Janeiro Wilson Witzel, has defended the legalisation of casinos in Brazil. Speaking during a ceremony as the New Petrobras CEO was ushered into office at the company’s headquarters in Rio de Janeiro, Witzel used the opportunity to talk briefly about gambling.

Mr. Witzel, who took office this month as part of an electoral wave favouring far-right politicians that elevated Bolsonaro to the presidency, argued that new security measures in place to combat crime and money laundering would make a legalised industry more feasible.

“There is a belief that gaming can not happen in Brazil. It can happen anywhere in the world,” said Witzel. One of Witzel’s goals is to carry out public-private partnerships to attract new investments to Rio and increase the number of tourists.
“In Rio, we are planning to restructure the police and jointly to combat, for example, crimes such as money laundering, we have to generate employment and income,” the governor said.

Crucially Witzel, is a close ally of newly elected President Jair Bolsonaro. A former army captain Bolsonaro has promised a number of measures to reduce the crime rate. While there had been a number of reports which argued that Bolsonaro may well have allowed for pro gaming laws Bolsonaro had remained largely silent on the issue apart from a live Facebook interview when he said he was against gambling before the election. However this could have been a means to appease evangelical groups which make up a significant proportion of his support base.

In addition key members of the new administration also backed Provisional Measure 846/18, which deals mainly with how lottery funds are distributed giving more priority to National Security. A much larger proportion of resources operated by Brazil’s largest state owned bank and lottery operator –the Caixa Econômica Federal (CAIXA) will be earmarked for public security while the bill will raise additional income for the government by green lighting sports betting.

Combined with Witzel’s statements this could well mean that the government could be paving the way for casinos in Brazil. In addition Governor Witzel’s support of casinos comes after Rio mayor Marcelo Crivella defended the building of a large casino in Rio in December. Crivella wants the help of Bolsonaro to pass a bill in Congress that would allow the opening of a venture led by US billionaire Sheldon Adelson. According to Crivella, the new integrated resort would have the capacity to generate thousands of jobs.

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