Brazil lower house approves bill legalizing gambling and casinos despite dissension

Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies approved the main text of a bill legalizing gambling. But lawmakers disagreed about the law even among political parties.

Casino gambling roulette

The Chamber of Deputies of Brazil, the country’s lower house, approved on February 24 a divisive bill that legalizes gambling in Brazil. Bolsonaro may apply his veto.

The bill would repeal a federal law from 1946 that prohibited gambling in Brazil. Under the current law, it is considered a misdemeanor and offenders can face a fine and from three to 12 months of prison.

The text was voted by 246 lawmakers in favor, 202 against and registered 3 abstentions. The bill will now move to Senate after the lower house analyzes some amendments to the proposal components.

But lawmakers so far are in favor of legalizing gambling, horse racing betting, casino, bingo houses, and online betting. Jogo do bicho, a popular lottery-type game with animals, would also be allowed. Currently prohibited almost everywhere in the country, Jogo do bicho, Brazilian for animal game, is yet very popular and has been played throughout Brazil for decades despite the prohibition.

Lawmakers who approved the bill see the business opportunity in gambling, collecting tax and bringing under law activities that are already being conducted illegally. Those who opposed are worried about addiction, corruption and money laundering risks associated with money games.

And the division between lawmakers goes beyond the traditional ruling coalition and opposition parties. Religious lawmakers strongly rejected the legalization of gambling.

The rapporteur of the bill, Felipe Carreras is from the opposition Brazilian Socialist Party. Yet, Alessandro Molon from the same party and opposition leader in the Chamber of Deputies was against the law.

President Jair Bolsonaro is also against such a bill and may oppose his veto.

Jogo de bicho grid
Jogo de bicho grid

If the law passes all the legislative process, casinos would be able to operate with licenses and would need to be integrated into leisure facilities like resorts, restaurants, shopping centers, hotels or cruise ships. Licenses, from 1 to 3, would be granted depending on the population size of each Brazilian state where it would be located.

According to estimates from Felipe Carreras, illegal gambling in Brazil generates more than R$27 billion (US$5.26 bn) every year, which is 60% more than the R$ 17-billion market of official money games like the national lottery.

Carreras also justified that the legalization of gambling could create 200,000 new jobs and make 450,000 informal jobs now legal.

A tax would collect 17% of income from businesses operating in the gambling sector, which would be redistributed into various areas like tourism, sport and culture.

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