Plans to legalise land-based casino gambling have come unstuck in the Chamber of Deputies, while the Senate’s Committee on Constitution, Justice and Citizenship made an unexpected u-turn on its gaming bill.
The prospect of the legalisation of gambling in Brazil is looking increasingly less likely as key legalisation has met with major setbacks in both chambers of the country’s National Congress.
The country’s Ministry of Tourism recently introduced a new proposal to legalise solely land-based casino gambling. However this plan was soon scuppered following resistance from a number of lawmakers.
Introduced as an amendment to a package of tourism reforms in late February, the legislation set out plans for the construction of 32 casino-resorts across the country, with at least one for each state and the capital Brasilia, two in Rio de Janeiro, Bahia, and Minas Gerais, and up to three in São Paulo.
However, deputy César Halum characterised the proposal as a “pirate amendment” which had little to do with the main issue of the original bill.
Halum instead contended that all forms of gaming should be legalised together, as proposed in bill PL 442/1991 – currently awaiting a vote by a plenary of the lower house – arguing that the Ministry of Tourism’s proposals would only favour a small number of foreign companies.
“We must legalise all [gaming modalities] or not legalise anything. We are not going to allow this coup to take place in the plenary,” Halum stated.
In addition to resistance from anti-gambling lawmakers and lobby groups, the opposition to the proposal reflects the divide between pro-gaming advocates, with policy markers split regarding to what extent gambling should be legalised.
“[The legislation] liberalises gaming for the exclusive benefit of large American business, for predatory casino companies, and does not address legalisation in general,” said deputy Joao Carlos Bacelar.
The Chamber of Deputies eventually voted in favour of the package of tourism reforms on 20 March, but only after the bill’s main backer, deputy Paulo Azi, agreed to shelve the IR amendment.
The situation is looking equally bleak over in the Senate, after the upper house’s Committee on Constitution, Justice and Citizenship (CCJ) rejected rapporteur senator Benedito de Lira’s draft gaming bill, PLS 186/2014, at the beginning of March.
The vote came as a significant blow to the Senate’s gaming legislation, which had already been languishing in committee stage for over a year.
Nevertheless, despite the negative result, the bill can still be put to a vote in plenary meeting if requested by a senator.
With scant progress towards the legalisation of gaming in 2017, it appears that the prospects that new legislation could be passed this year remain far from certain.
Given that 2018 is an election year in Brazil, the reduction of sessions for the electoral campaign, together with the fact that the legalisation of gaming is a political hot potato, means that there is unlikely to be much movement on the issue before October’s general elections.