Brazil's Bolsonaro Lays Ground For Sports-Betting Decree

October 18, 2022
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Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro has reiterated his opposition to legalising gambling, but admitted that the regulation of sports betting is a foregone conclusion.

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Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro has reiterated his opposition to legalising gambling, but admitted that the regulation of sports betting is a foregone conclusion.

Bolsonaro, who is in the middle of a re-election battle that will be decided on October 30, told the Paparazzo Rubro-Negro podcast that pending sports-betting regulations are “mature” and “advanced” and he is now more focused on where the revenue from legal sports betting will go.

A fixed-odds sports-betting law, which was signed by former President Michel Temer just before his departure from office in late 2018, has been awaiting the adoption of an implementing decree for four years, with a December 12 statutory deadline fast approaching.

“The player keeps playing and the money is spent offshore, so this is advanced in our whole society,” Bolsonaro conceded of the current popularity of unregulated sports-betting platforms.

“I don’t want it for the treasury, I have enough money,” he said of revenues from sports betting. “The arm wrestling right now is where this money goes. It goes to treat drug addicts, goes to security, goes to infrastructure.”

The implication of Bolsonaro's comments, according to sports lawyer Udo Seckelmann, is that “he will sign the regulatory decree of fixed-odds sports betting, since there are several online platforms already operating in Brazil and sports betting has reached the ‘mainstream’ among Brazilian citizens”.

Although the 2018 law which authorises fixed-odds sports betting states that “the Ministry of Economy shall regulate the activity” within a maximum period of four years, there is no stated consequence for not adopting a regulatory decree before that deadline.

The expectation was that sports betting would be regulated and signed within the four-year deadline; however, the presidential elections, along with the years it has taken to debate and pass a much larger gambling bill in Brazil, has caused some concern among Brazilian market observers.

Bolsonaro also said on the podcast that he would veto the larger gambling bill that was passed by the lower house of Congress earlier this year should it come to his desk as is, which remains on brand with everything he has said about gambling since he came to power. Bolsonaro did acknowledge, however, that his veto could be futile, as his decision would throw it back to Congress, which could vote to override his veto.

As far as Luiz Felipe Maia, a gambling law expert with Maia Yoshiyasu law firm in Sao Paulo, is concerned, this is just more of the same from the incumbent President who is battling to defeat rival Luiz Inacio "Lula" Da Silva in the October 30 presidential run-off election.

“He is saying what the crowd wants to hear before the election,” Maia said.

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