Brazil’s long-stalled efforts to legalize online gambling could come to nothing after the government made a surprise push to legalize only land-based casinos at integrated resorts.
On Tuesday, Joao Carlos Bacelar (pictured right), a deputy in Brazil’s lower legislative body, gave an impassioned speech in the Chamber of Deputies slamming the Ministry of Tourism’s urgent request for consideration of a plan to legalize integrated resorts.
The plan involves fusing several pieces of legislation, including a bill calling for the creation of the Brazilian Tourism Promotion Agency, another amending the National Tourism Policy to define the federal government’s role in overseeing the nation’s tourism industry.
Deputy Paulo Azi, who oversees the Chamber’s Tourism Committee, pushed for a single urgency vote on the combined legislation, which would bypass the need for further committee input and move the bill to a vote by the full Chamber.
A last-minute addition to the legislation was a call for the legalization of resort casinos in two states, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, while ignoring any of the other gambling verticals – including online gambling – in the twin bills that have been stuck in Brazil’s legislature for several years.
Last December, Chamber President Rodrigo Maia expressed his preference for a casino-only plan, saying it was the only gambling vertical capable of boosting tourism. Maia restated this position at a meeting in Washington, DC the following month.
On Tuesday, Deputy Bacelar publicly slammed Maia’s position, demanding to know “what is behind this measure of legalizing only ten casinos?” Bacelar demanded Maia explain who stood to benefit from preventing the other forms of gambling from being brought into the legal sunlight.
Bacelar pointed out that the casino-only plan “will produce only 20k jobs in the country,” whereas legalizing the various other forms of gambling envisioned under the other legislative proposals would create 700k jobs. As such, Bacelar said he would work to obstruct the casino-only plan until “we know the whole content of the matter.”
LAS VEGAS SANDS TO THE RESCUE … OF SANDS
According to Brazilian gaming media outlet BNL, Deputy Azi justified the casino-only plan by saying it was the preferred option of some of the international casino companies that have expressed interest in setting up shop in Brazil.
Further to that note, Ministry of Finance Secretary Mansueto Almeida was scheduled to meet Wednesday with Andy Abboud, head lobbyist for casino operator Las Vegas Sands, whose boss Sheldon Adelson views online gambling as an existential threat to society.
Games Magazine Brasil quoted Abboud (pictured left) saying Sands supported “a limited and strictly regulated environment for gaming” and “does not believe in the dilution of the market.” Only after establishing a few large land-based casinos should Brazil consider whether “it is appropriate to expand the market over time.”