Brazil iGaming In Jeopardy After Romário Amendment

November 8, 2023
One of two senators charged with steering an online gambling bill through Brazil’s Senate has released an updated version limiting the scope of regulation to betting on sports events and deleting provisions for online casino games.

One of two senators charged with steering an online gambling bill through Brazil’s Senate has released an updated version limiting the scope of regulation to betting on sports events and deleting provisions for online casino games.

Romário, the legendary former footballer turned federal senator, published an updated report on bill PL 3626/2023 on Tuesday (November 7), just a few hours before the bill is scheduled to receive a vote before the Senate Sports Committee that he chairs. 

The latest version of the bill follows an earlier iteration that was proposed last month by the 1994 World Cup winner, with several key changes. 

Among other things, Romário has now withdrawn his own amendment to prohibit bets on so-called isolated events such as corners, throw-ins or yellow cards.

Most significant, however, is the Rio de Janeiro’s agreement to amend the bill that was passed by Congress’ lower house in September to delete language allowing licensed operators to offer fixed-odds bets on “virtual online gaming events.”

Romário’s bill would now permit only betting on real sports events as well as “virtual events of a sporting theme.” He wrote that the intention of the amendment was to ensure that “fixed-odds bets can be based only on real events based on sports.”

Although Romário’s changes underline that the issue is still up for debate, it is far from clear that Brazil’s Senate will ultimately decide to nix online gaming from the pending sports-betting bill.

Romário’s sports committee is deliberating over PL 3626/2023 concurrently with a separate Senate committee on economic affairs, where Bahia Senator Angelo Coronel is serving in the equivalent role of rapporteur.

Once the two committees have approved their own versions of the bill, the full Senate will then review both proposals and vote on a final version. 

Even if online casino does not make the final cut on the Senate floor, the original provisions could still be restored by the Chamber of Deputies before a definitive bill is sent to the desk of Brazil's President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

The general consensus among Brazilian delegates at last week’s SBC Summit Latinoamérica in Miami was that Coronel’s forthcoming version of the bill was more likely to be closer to the final Senate product, with senators likely to defer to Romário on matters of sports integrity but less so on other policy matters. 

Coronel has yet to release his report on the bill, with negotiations understood to be ongoing with industry groups, Senate and Chamber of Deputies leaders, and with officials in Lula’s administration.

The Bahia senator told a news outlet from his home state earlier this week that his forthcoming report would include proposed changes to player winnings taxes, reducing a current rate of 30 percent on all winnings above a threshold amount of around US$400 to instead only tax player net winnings at a rate of 15 percent.

Coronel said he also intends to amend the Chamber-passed bill with similar proposals to Romário’s to extend the licence term from three to five years, cap an upfront fee at a maximum of around US$6m rather than setting it at that amount, and also ensure that operators can deploy up to two skins per licence.

He told Bahia Noticias it was “unviable” to expect operators to pay US$6m or R$30m for a licence.

“I believe that due to this amount, many sites would stay in the illegal market,” Coronel said.

The Bahia senator did not comment on whether his version of the bill would allow for online casino games in addition to sports betting, although it should be noted that Coronel has a clear track record of supporting expanded gaming in general.

There are also rumours that Coronel may be considering an additional amendment to require all licensed operators to have Brazilian investors.

While the sports committee is set to vote on Romário’s version of the bill during a scheduled meeting later today (November 8), there is currently no clear date for when Coronel and the economic affairs committee will follow suit.

Because PL 3626/2023 is an urgency bill, Brazil’s Senate technically only has 45 days, or until November 11, to vote on the legislation following its initial approval in the lower house.

That deadline is now highly likely to be missed, however, meaning senators from next week will be unable to vote on any other bills until the sports-betting legislation is brought up on the Senate floor.


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