It was reported earlier this month that Brazilian democrat, Paulo Azi, had filed for a law to legalise gambling in the country, with the building of 32 casinos. Currently, gambling in land-based sites is illegal, not to say that it doesn’t go on. But there’s no rules in place when it comes to gambling online or similarly, gambling off-shore, for example on board a cruise ship, isn’t frowned upon.
Should the legislation be passed, there would be rules in place for how many casinos can be built in each state – and these would be dependent on the number of inhabitants. For example, biggest state, São Paulo with a population of 45 million, will be allowed to build three casinos – and would be the only state to do so. 23 states have populations of under 15 million and would qualify for one resort; while states with populations between 15- and 25 million, including Rio de Janeiro and Bahia could have two.
Similarly, rules will be in place regarding the size of the casino in the resort and the other amenities it would need to possess. Gaming space should not take up any more than 10% of the resort’s overall area and the resorts would be required to feature any of the following: spas, restaurants, bars, shopping outlets, art galleries, museums, theatres, golf courses and other sports facilities, theme parks and water parks.
According to casinobeats.com, Sheldon Adelson, CEO of the Las Vegas Sands group who have properties in North America and Asia, has reportedly proposed two casinos in Brazil should the law be passed: one in Rio and the other in São Paulo. The mayor of Rio is reported to have said the resort would have a budget of $10 billion – so they’re certainly aiming to make a big impression.
Azi is aware of gambling being prevalent in the country, mostly through illegally-run set-ups, although there is a state lottery which is obviously regulated. He said: “The focus of my proposition is not to foster the existence of the gambling market. It is instead because we are dealing with a sector that already exists, is in full operation, and whose expansion is practically impossible to stop. At present there is no control, regulation or taxation of this industry in Brazil”.
Brazil’s gambling history
Believe it or not, but there was a time when casinos were legal in Brazil – however, after World War II it came to an end. The government believed that gambling was a major factor to organised crime and money laundering, among other social issues. In 1941, sports betting was unauthorised and later in 1946, all other forms of gambling were forbidden, including land-based casinos. However, horseracing and other pursuits (including dog racing) were never banned.
Additionally, in 1993, the ‘Zico Law’ permitted the operation of electronic gaming machines throughout Brazil. A second law, known as ‘Pele’ was passed in 1998 and this saw slot machines being allowed to be housed inside bingo halls – thus increasing the popularity of games.
Gambling in the present day
As mentioned, the state lottery is regulated by the government and the largest and leading service is Mega-Sena, which has been in operation since 1996. While there are nine different lotteries which can be played completely legally, it is also believed that the majority of Brazilian states run their own programmes to fund community projects.
The aforementioned Zico and Pele laws were abolished in 2004 and in 2007 all official bingo halls and slots parlours were closed. Of course, that doesn’t mean to say that they are still being run illegally ‘underground’.
Despite such regulations, there are no rules in place regarding online gambling and because of such ambiguity, foreign gambling companies have taken advantage and allowed Brazilian nationals to sign up to their websites and apps. Worryingly, the Brazilians are specifically catered for with Portuguese sites and the inclusion of Brazil Real as a currency.
The legislation of casinos in Brazil would not only limit the illegalities which occur, but would also boost the country’s revenue. It has been said that as part of the proposal, the government would receive 10% of the gross revenue generated by the casinos, which would be directed towards public safety and tourism. The building of the casinos would not only be for financial gain, but boost numbers in terms of tourism – just look at Nevada, who legalised gambling in 1931, or Macau, which has earned the nickname the ‘Las Vegas of Asia’, due to its multi-million-dollar resorts.
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