Romário Releases Report On Brazil's Online Gambling Bill

October 19, 2023
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Former football star turned federal senator Romário has presented his formal report on Brazil's sports-betting and online casino bill, although the sports committee that he chairs has delayed voting on an amended version of the closely watched legislation.
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Former football star turned federal senator Romário has presented his formal report on Brazil's sports-betting and online casino bill, although the sports committee that he chairs has delayed voting on an amended version of the closely watched legislation.

Headline changes proposed by the former World Cup winning striker include extending the validity of operating licences for fixed-betting from three to five years, as well as limiting certain bet types due to integrity concerns.

After the Chamber of Deputies approved the bill last month and it was submitted to the Senate, Romário was appointed to be the so-called rapporteur of the bill before the Senate's sports committee, which he chairs.

In parallel, Bahia senator Angelo Colonel is the rapporteur of the bill before the Senate's Economic Affairs Committee.

A rapporteur is an influential position as it gives one senator or deputy the power to accept or reject any amendments submitted by fellow lawmakers, and then make their own amendments to essentially redraft a pending piece of legislation before it is submitted to a vote either before a committee or on the floor of the Senate or Chamber.

Romário's report on Bill 3626/2023 recommends approval of an amendment to make clear that the upfront fee for a sports-betting and online gaming licence has an upper limit of R$30m, rather than strictly being set at that amount. 

“If it is just a ceiling, the value to be defined by the Ministry of Finance can be established at any value below this limit. We believe it is necessary to make it clear that this is a maximum limit,” Romário wrote. 

Under the amendment, a licence would also cover up to two websites, or skins, with a second sports-betting or casino skin not requiring any additional fee.

Proposed amendments that would change advertising regulations to prohibit broadcast commercials were rejected by the federal senator for Rio de Janeiro state, as were other proposals to remove online casino games from the bill and limit regulation strictly to sports betting.

Romário did, however, accept an amendment proposed by senator Jorge Kajuru to remove a requirement for advertising to be limited to certain media and times of day, as included in the bill in the Chamber of Deputies, in favour of a self-regulatory model, which aims to ensure that advertising must not be aimed at adults and not children. 

Two identical amendments were accepted to enable the Ministry of Finance to grant operating licences for up to five years instead of three years. 

The licensing period was initially expected to be five years, and it was a surprise when the Chamber of Deputies approved a bill that instead specified a three-year term.

Romário partially allowed two amendments that proposed allocating 2 percent of revenue from online betting to “prevent and mitigate social harm resulting from gambling disorders”. However, he cautioned that “both amendments reduce the percentage allocated to cover the cost and maintenance expenses of the lottery operating agent”.

As a result, Romário settled on allocating 0.5 percent for the Ministry of Health to the prevention of gambling disorders. 

A final amendment proposed by Romário would prohibit bets on “isolated events” during games, including for players to receive a yellow or red card, or concede a corner or throw-in.

The Sports Committee was meant to vote on Wednesday (October 18) on Romário's revised version of the bill, but members accepted a motion to delay consideration for an additional 24 hours. 

Similarly, the Economic Affairs Committee had been scheduled to vote on the measure on Tuesday, but an anti-gambling member of the committee was able to pass a motion to first hold a public hearing on the bill.

That hearing is scheduled to take place this evening (October 19), with officials from the Ministry of Finance, tax authority and anti-money laundering watchdog among those invited to testify before senators.

Once approved by the sports and economic affairs committees, the sports-betting and online gaming bill will then be submitted for a vote before the full Senate. Due to an urgency clause attached to the legislation, the Senate must vote on the bill before November 11.

Additional reporting by James Kilsby.

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