A poll conducted by Brazil’s Senate has suggested strong popular support for casino expansion, even though a vote on a sweeping measure that passed the lower house in February seems highly unlikely until after October’s elections.
DataSenado, a research institute created in 2005 as part of the Senate’s Secretariat of Transparency, conducted an online survey that found that Brazilians support the legalisation of gaming, and specifically Bill 442/91, by an 18 percent margin. Such polls are a common practice for the organisation for pending legislation.
From March 7 to May 2, the survey queried Brazilians on Chamber Bill 442/91, the bill which would legalise casinos, bingo, the jogos do bicho numbers game and online gaming, as well as Senate Bill PLS 2648/19, which would exclusively allow for the operation of casinos in resorts.
Most viewed the link between gambling and tourism favourably, with 58 percent answering that having gambling within resorts would be good for the growth of tourism.
A further 61 percent responded that they believed casinos would lead to an increase in employment. Another 61 percent said expanded gambling would lead to an increase in tax revenue.
In response to the question “In your opinion, what is the main repercussion of legalising gambling for Brazilian families?”, 56 percent cited an increase in income and employment.
Yet despite this positive response, others still have serious reservations.
A further 25 percent of those polled were concerned about loss of money due to gambling addiction. Some 8 percent were most concerned about an increase in depression and suicide, 5 percent raised concern at domestic abuse, while 2 percent cited an increase in alcoholism and smoking.
The survey did not address the hot-button issue of sports betting, where government officials face a fast-approaching year-end deadline to establish regulations for fixed-odd sports betting, in accordance with legislation that already passed the Senate and Chamber of Deputies and was enacted in December 2018.
The question remains whether these regulations will be established in time to license operators for the FIFA World Cup in November.
Still, Sao Paulo-based gaming law expert Luiz Felipe Maia said a poll of public opinion of sports betting would have a predictable outcome.
“Betting is more recreational than [other] types of gambling. It's already socially accepted in the country,” he said.
“When you talk about sports betting, at the end of the day, they are trying to regulate something that is already there and that needs to be regulated.
Maia said more than 500 different sports-betting websites are already active in Brazil right now, while 19 out of 20 first division soccer teams are sponsored by betting companies.
“We have advertising in every single sports channel,” he said. “So we need to control it and we need to put some order in this. And that's why… we need to have this decree, I think it's a different approach. It's so much easier to sell.”
The precise timing for when either sports betting or broader gambling expansion will move forward remains uncertain.
Brazilian publication Metropoles reported two weeks ago that President Jair Bolsonaro would sign the regulatory decree for sports betting by May 10, but that date has been and gone with no news from the executive branch.
Meanwhile, although the results of the Senate poll have been viewed as encouraging by gambling supporters, Bill 442/91 is not widely expected to move forward in the Senate before the presidential and congressional elections, which will take place in October.
As things stand, the bill has yet to be referred to a Senate committee or be assigned a senator to serve as its rapporteur, who would be charged with redrafting the measure to be voted upon by the Congress’ upper house.
Senate President Rodrigo Pacheco two weeks ago said a Senate vote on the bill was possible later this year, but he could not commit to that.
Senator Angelo Coronel, one of the leading supporters of gambling expansion in the Senate, told BNLData that the recent poll proved a majority of the Brazilian people are in favour of legalising gambling.
The bill would not create forms of gambling that do not already exist in Brazil, he said.
“They are simply legalising what will generate jobs for the population that is in need of new jobs, it will generate income, it will generate taxes for the government to apply to social programs.”
“Let's keep in mind that Bill 442 has been under discussion for 31 years,” said Maia, the Brazilian gambling law expert. “So I think we may have to wait a little, not 30 years, but I don’t think things will get resolved very quickly.”