Brazil’s President has removed the urgency requirement attached to pending legislation to regulate online betting and casino games, but only after Senate leaders committed to voting on the measure as soon as next Tuesday (November 21).
President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva published a notice in the government’s official journal earlier this week requesting the removal of the urgency status that was attached to Bill PL 3626/2023 when it was introduced in July.
That constitutional urgency requirement gave both houses of Congress no more than 45 days to vote on the bill, with the Senate’s 45-day window already expired as of November 11, following the earlier approval of the measure by the Chamber of Deputies in mid-September.
As a result of the move, there is no longer an incentive for the Senate to fast-track the approval of the legislation that will establish a national licensing regime in Brazil.
But that does not mean that consideration of the bill is actually going to be delayed.
Tuesday’s notice followed reports of a meeting several hours earlier between Lula and Senate President Rodrigo Pacheco, during which the pair discussed legislative priorities for the remaining few weeks of 2023.
Speaking on the Senate floor later in the day, Pacheco thanked President Lula for removing the urgency requirement from the pending sports-betting bill so that senators could proceed with voting on other initiatives while negotiations around the final text of the sports-betting legislation continue.
The Senate president told his colleagues that the bill would be scheduled for a vote in a Senate committee next Tuesday (November 21) followed by a final vote on the floor of the Senate later that same day.
Lula’s notice to remove the urgency status for the bill came “of course, with the commitment of the [Senate] presidency to submit PL 3626, which deals with sports betting, for consideration on Tuesday next week”, Pacheco said.
The closely-watched bill was advanced last week by the Senate’s sports committee, following adoption by committee members of several dramatic amendments to remove online casino games from the legislation’s scope and impose harsh restrictions on betting advertising and sponsorship.
However, an alternative and potentially more favourable version of the measure is due to be presented for consideration by the Senate’s economic affairs committee in the coming days, potentially on Monday or just before the legislation is brought before that committee as per Pacheco’s comments.
Once the full Senate reviews the two separate committee reports on the bill and votes on a definitive version, PL 3626/23 would then be returned to the Chamber of Deputies for a final vote before being sent to Lula’s desk to be signed into law.
Despite Pacheco’s comments, the change in status for the legislation does, in theory, allow for that timeline to be delayed just as previous gaming expansion proposals have been stalled on the Senate floor by anti-gambling senators in years past.
Federal licensing for sports betting, meanwhile, is already nearly five years in the making after the previous Brazilian administration missed an initial deadline to implement an original law that was passed in December 2018.
“Of course removing the bill’s urgency frightens the market, due to the history of several postponements that the Brazilian government experienced,” acknowledged Rafael Marcondes Marchetti, legal director for Brazilian betting industry association IBRJ and leading fantasy-sports provider Rei do Pitaco.
“However, there is still an expectation for voting on Bill 3626 in the national Congress before the end of November,” Marcondes told Vixio GamblingCompliance.
Brazilian lawmakers are scheduled to go on recess no later than December 22 until February 2, with industry executives and federal government officials equally eager for the full legislative process to be concluded by mid-December so that licensing may commence by mid-2024.
Pacheco, the Senate president, was reported last week to have told Brazil’s finance minister that both the bill to regulate online betting and the broader legislation for land-based casinos, bingo games and other forms of gambling were a priority for the Senate in what remains of this year's congressional session.
The broader bill was passed by the lower house in February 2022 but has yet to be brought up in the Senate’s constitutional and judicial affairs committee, where it has been pending for several months.