Brazil Steps Toward Legal Gambling

After a number of pushes toward legal gambling from a number of different directions, Brazil’s tourism minister has announced a proposal for integrated resort-casinos, intended to open after the COVID-19 pandemic draws to a close. The last few months have seen a number of suggestions come from different actors within Brazil’s government, all aimed toward legalizing gambling in the hopes of generating additional revenue for the Latin American country.

Aerial view of Ponta Negra, Natal, Brazil.

As Brazil becomes the second hardest-hit country worldwide from the novel coronavirus, another legislator pushes for legal gambling. ©Pedro Menezes/Unsplash

The Previous Proposals

Brazil Tourism Minister Marcelo Álvaro Antônio’s plan to push for legal integrated resort-casinos in Brazil comes just a short time after Brazil’s Federal Deputy Pompeo de Mattos announced that he would be pushing for nationwide legal gambling in casinos just a couple of weeks ago.

Federal Deputy Mattos was also not the only legislator encouraging legalization of casino activity in Brazil this year. Just before his suggestion to legalize gambling in casinos, another Federal Deputy, this time Alberto Neto, submitted a proposal to legalize casinos in Amazonas, one of Brazil’s 26 states.

Most recently, Brazil’s President himself, Jair Bolsonaro, fought in court to prove that casinos should be given essential business status. After a legal battle, a federal judge denied President Bolsonaro’s motion, but this could not stop yet another bill from being put down the pike this week.

Legal Casinos in Amazonas

The two proposals, made a only a number of weeks apart, both push to legalize gambling in all or parts of Brazil and are both motivated out of a desire to uplift all or part of Brazil’s economy, which has been in a consistent recession since 2014 — and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has certainly not helped.

The first proposal, which was filed by Federal Deputy Alberto Neto as bill 585/2020 posited that the government should legalize casinos in Amazonas. While Amazonas is geographically larger than Brazil’s other 25 states, it has struggled significantly financially, given that — with the exception of its capital city — much of the region has limited sources of revenue.

As Federal Deputy Neto explained at the time, the bill could be a sort of pilot project for the entire nation, using Amazonas as a means of seeing how legalization and implementation of legal casinos nationwide could play out. As Federal Deputy Neto explained the bill at the time, this includes legal resort-casinos in Amazonas.

At that point, Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies President, Rodrigo Maia, voiced approval for the plan so long as it meant integrated resort-casinos, such as the Hard Rock International, which has casino locations already across Latin America. The resort-casino model is one government leaders likely to be wary of gambling are more receptive to.

A Push To Open Casinos During COVID

The second, more recent, proposal, came from another Federal Deputy, this time Pompeo de Mattos, who is pushing for nationwide legalization of gambling. According to Federal Deputy Mattos, this could be the shot in the arm needed for the nation of Brazil, particularly as the coronavirus pandemic has wrought havoc on the country.

According to Federal Deputy Mattos, the income generated from legal casinos would contribute to government revenue, which would be supplemented by the high tax rate placed on gambling revenue. Additionally, legal casinos would create new jobs to be filled by Brazilians, many of whom have struggled significantly in recent months and years.

“It would generate taxes, income for the government, and it would help us recover the economy. It would create jobs. It’s a perfectly possible, viable, and necessary alternative to rebuild the economy after the coronavirus crisis.”Pompeo de Mattos, Federal Deputy, Brazil

What’s Different About This Proposal?

This latest proposal, unveiled the week of May 18 by Brazil’s Tourism Minister Marcelo Álvaro Antônio in an interview to Brazilian outlet O Tempo, demonstrates that he has in the works a proposal to legalize integrated resort-casinos nationwide, set to open once the coronavirus pandemic has run its course.

This plan differs from Federal Deputy Mattos’s suggestion in that it only would allow for legal resort-casinos. This is an intentional move on the part of Tourism Minister Antônio, as, according to him, integrated resort-casinos could both be a draw to tourists and, due to the resort element, dissuade Brazilians tempted to over-gamble from participating.

While many Brazilian politicians have since weighed in on Tourism Minister Antônio’s suggestion, generally positively, others, like Solidarity party leader Paulinho da Força, believes, much like Federal Deputy Mattos, that legalization of gambling should go beyond just resort-casinos.

According to Força, legal bingos would be a great boon to Brazil’s economy. As of May 2020, only the lottery is legal in Brazil. All other forms of gambling are illegal, and the current administration in Brazil, currently spearheaded by President Jair Bolsonaro, partially won its seat on opposition to gambling and the threat posed to “family values.”

No Coincidence: Brazil Hard-Hit By COVID

The multitude of recent proposals coming from high up within Brazil’s government are no coincidence: Brazil has now joined the ominous ranks of being one of the countries hardest-hit worldwide by the novel coronavirus. As of May 24, 2020, Brazil became the second hardest-hit country in the world by the pandemic, after the United States.

By May 25, Brazil had reached more than 374,800 total documented cases nationwide, with 23,400 Brazilians who have lost their lives to the ongoing, global, crisis. Brazil’s controversial President, Jair Bolsonaro, has strongly emphasized that the coronavirus response should not be more devastating than the virus itself.

President Bolsonaro has, much like Mexico’s President Obrador, insisted that businesses should remain open and life continuing as usual as the virus continues to rage in the economically struggling Latin American country. President Bolsonaro has received widespread criticism internationally for his flippant comments about the virus.

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