Brazil’s Senate has again postponed voting on the sports betting and online gaming bill, raising questions if the bill will be signed by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva before the holiday recess that begins on December 22.
Bill PL 3626/2023 was meant to be addressed by the Senate in early November before an urgency clause was removed at the behest of Senate President Rodrigo Pacheco, who wished to address budgetary matters first.
Despite being on the Senate's agenda for December 6, the bill now will not be voted on until Tuesday December 12, according to remarks by Pacheco on the Senate floor.
The latest delay is due to pressure from multiple senators, who noted that some Senate members have yet to return to Brasilia from the United Nations' COP28 climate conference in Dubai and Wednesday's voting session was due to be held only virtually.
Although remote voting is possible, anti-gambling senators insisted on Tuesday (December 5) that a more controversial issue such as expanded gambling should have the full cohort of senators present.
A planned vote was postponed for essentially the same reason last week when Pacheco and other senators were absent at the COP28 event.
Eduardo Girão, the vocal author of dozens of submitted amendments to the bill and leader of the Senate's anti-gambling caucus, described Bill 3626/2023 as “a very controversial project”.
He noted that a version of the bill with online casino games removed and significant advertising restrictions added that was approved by the Senate's sports committee in November had been “completely scrapped” in favour of an alternative version passed by another committee and being presented for the full Senate to vote on.
"Another one was approved, even with problems when requesting a view, there was no view, it was a mess,” he said, referring to the conclusion of the match-fixing parliamentary investigation that ended without a vote.
Girão said that only consensus bills are typically voted on remotely by a virtual plenary and that as a controversial project, “quality debate” was required on a bill that had been quietly expanded beyond sports betting to include all forms of online gambling.
“It is something that does not benefit the Brazilian population; quite the opposite, it benefits tycoons, and that is not the priority of this [upper house of Congress], at such an important moment for the nation,” Girão stated.
Senator Damares Alves appealed on behalf of the Senate's Women’s Caucus that she and fellow members needed time to consult internally regarding the effects of online betting on children and teenagers.
Senator Sergio Moro also referenced the inclusion of online casino games in the bill.
“It is a sensitive topic and the great fear is that [the Brazilian people] claim that the Senate legalized gambling in Brazil, in an unrestricted manner, without there being an in-person session,” he said, supporting calls for a delay.
According to Rafael Marchetti Marcondes, the legal director of leading fantasy sports operator Rei do Pitaco and Brazilian betting association IBJR, online casino games have been a major sticking point in the Senate.
“The delay puts in doubt the viability of the iGaming approval. There is huge pressure from the detractors to leave this matter to be decided in Bill 442/91, alleging that this an issue that does not fit with the main purpose of the project (sports betting),” Marcondes told Vixio, referring to a separate bill to authorize online gaming along with land-based casinos and bingo that is also pending in the Senate.
He also expressed concern that the bill will be signed into law this year, calling the timeline “challenging”.
After being approved in the Senate, the bill has to go back for a final vote in the Chamber of Deputies, which will only have a week to act before a congressional recess that begins on December 22.