Romário Opens Senate Investigation On Sports Betting

March 14, 2024
Romário, the Brazilian footballing legend turned federal senator, has requested a Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry (CPI) on suspicious sports betting, which was approved on Tuesday.

Romário, the Brazilian footballing legend turned federal senator, has requested a Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry (CPI) on suspicious sports betting, which was approved on Tuesday (March 12).

This will be the second sports betting-related CPI in less than a year, with the previous one concluding in September without a vote on a final report and without inciting any real policy change.

Unlike the previous CPI, which was held in the Chamber of Deputies, this will take place before the Senate and will similarly be given up to 180 days to investigate possible match-fixing before releasing a formal report.

In his request, Romário cited the football spot-fixing scandal unveiled by prosecutors in Goiás state last year, which involved criminal organisations approaching players to purposefully concede penalties or receive yellow cards. At the time, the so-called Operation Maximum Penalty investigation was called the biggest scandal in the history of Brazilian football.

The 1994 World Cup winner also referred to a recently released Sportradar betting integrity report, which named Brazil as the country with the highest number of “suspicious betting events” in 2023.   

“It is worth remembering that football is an important economic activity in our country, which generates tens of thousands of jobs and drives an important direct and indirect income generation chain. It is, therefore, the state's duty to regulate and monitor its activities, in the name of the public interest,” Romário wrote.

“Given the large volumes involved in betting and the long time in which this environment has been deregulated, it is feared that numerous cases involving the enticement of players and managers are still occurring, putting at risk the integrity of the game, the good business environment and the passion of millions of Brazilians,” he continued.

Luiz Felipe Maia, a gambling law expert and founding partner at Maia Yoshiyasu in São Paulo, expanded on Romário’s “deregulated” comment: “The lack of regulation raises a lot of concern from congressmen and from Brazilian society. They don't actually understand how the industry works. And as long as we don't have regulation, these kinds of suspicions will continue to happen.”

Although a new federal law to establish a regulatory regime for sports betting was approved by Congress in December, implementation has been stalled in recent weeks as the industry waits for the head of the Brazilian Ministry of Finance's new Betting and Prizes Secretariat to be appointed.

A former finance ministry legal advisor widely expected to get the role was forced out in a shock move last month.

It will be up to the new secretariat to either sign or rewrite the dozen regulatory ordinances that are reportedly ready and waiting to establish a licensing and oversight regime for both online sports betting and online casino games.

The last CPI on betting and match-fixing, which launched in May 2023, happened before the sports-betting bill had been signed into law, and at the time was thought to partially be to put pressure on the government to regulate the market. 

No such motivation exists this time around, with some questioning why there is another CPI at all given the recentness of the new law enacted in December.

Asked about the motivations of the Senate in revisiting the issue, one Brazilian lawyer told Vixio GamblingCompliance: “Honestly, I have no idea.”   

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