Online Casino Opponents Stall Brazil Senate Vote

November 30, 2023
A scheduled Senate vote on Brazil’s bill to regulate sports betting and online casino games has been delayed for at least one week after a group of anti-gambling senators invoked Senate rules allowing them more time to review the measure.

A scheduled Senate vote on Brazil’s bill to regulate sports betting and online casino games has been delayed for at least one week after a group of anti-gambling senators invoked Senate rules allowing them more time to review the measure.

With Senate President Rodrigo Pacheco currently out of the country, stand-in leader Veneziano Vital do Rêgo on Wednesday agreed that Bill 3626/2023 could be heard on the Senate floor, but not voted on until next week when Pacheco is back in Brazil after a United Nations conference on climate change.

The decision came after a motion for urgent consideration of the bill was actually passed, but a group of anti-gambling lawmakers then cited parliamentary rules requiring at least two further Senate sessions to be held before a final vote, unless a sufficient quorum of three-fifths of all senators are present.

The delay incurred Wednesday is a sign that securing Senate approval will not be entirely plain sailing for the closely watched bill that has already been approved by the Chamber of Deputies and by two Senate committees, with several senators voicing opposition to the inclusion of online casino games in particular.

Senator Eduardo Girão, the head of the Senate’s anti-gambling caucus, lamented that senators had deliberately reinserted casino games into the latest version of the bill shortly after the Senate’s sports committee voted to limit regulation to sports betting only

“We managed to come to an agreement to apply the brakes to the major problem that this bill brings to Brazilian society,” he said of the sports committee’s more restrictive approach.

Amendments Adopted

Despite the decision to delay a vote, bill rapporteur Angelo Coronel proceeded to formally introduce his version of the legislation on the Senate floor, one week after it was approved by a Senate committee on economic affairs.

Coronel, a senator from Bahia state, insisted that the bill would not legalise new forms of gambling but instead apply regulations and taxes to online casino games “that have been played in Brazil for many, many months now without generating a cent in revenue for the government”.

He told fellow senators that a fully regulated online gambling market in Brazil is expected to “conservatively” generate R$10bn, or roughly US$2bn, annually, with an additional R$4bn expected in upfront licence fees from the more than 130 operators that have already expressed interest in a licence from the Ministry of Finance.

“I have no doubt that Brazil will be the largest global market, surpassing the UK, the United States and other places, because the Brazilian people — fundamentally, culturally — like to gamble,” Coronel said.

The Bahia senator formally rejected proposed amendments filed by Girão and other senators to remove online casino games from the bill, which Coronel said would only benefit the offshore market.

He also rebuffed amendments to restrict advertising and ban betting sponsorships, as also recommended by the Senate sports committee, on the grounds that limits on advertising could be added through secondary regulations “if necessary” but should not be baked into law.

Still, the bill rapporteur did agree to adopt several amendments to the legislation as approved by the economic affairs committee.

Among them were amendments to align revenue and winnings taxes for fantasy sports contests with those for sports betting, as well as clarifying that a ban on football club owners being investors in licensed betting operators would not apply to the owners of foreign teams outside Brazil.

Other approved amendments clarify that Brazilian national lottery operator Caixa Econômica Federal will be able to obtain a licence and use its retailer network to offer both retail and online bets.  

Following Wednesday’s session, senators now have a further week to present additional amendments, which Coronel will be charged with reviewing and recommending whether or not they should be included in the final bill.

Vital do Rêgo suggested that the online betting bill would be scheduled for a debate and vote during the Senate’s scheduled session next Wednesday, December 6, although it will be Pacheco who ultimately makes that decision.

Proof Of Life For Casino, Bingo Bill

The bill to regulate sports betting and online casino is not the only game in town in terms of gambling expansion in Brazil’s Senate.

In recent days, the upper house of Congress has also taken its first steps to review a much broader bill to authorize casino-resorts, video bingo operations and jogo do bicho numbers games that was previously approved by the Chamber of Deputies in February 2022.

That measure, Bill 2234/2022, has gathered dust in the Senate over the past 18 months but late last week finally received a designated rapporteur to steer the bill through the Senate’s Constitution, Citizenship and Justice (CCJ) committee.

Senator Irajá, a known casino proponent from Rio de Janeiro state, published his report on the bill on Wednesday, recommending its approval on the grounds that the legislation “establishes clear rules for a relevant economic activity that today is outside state supervision”.

Irajá recommended just one technical amendment to correct the name of the government ministry that would oversee Brazil’s expanded gaming market.

Bill 2234/2022 had been on the CCJ committee’s agenda for its meeting on Wednesday but was not brought up for discussion before members adjourned. It is expected to remain on the committee’s agenda for forthcoming meetings, however.

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