Brazil’s much-touted bill to legalise and regulate cross-channel and cross-sector gaming suffered a setback this March after a Senate committee voted 13-2 against the changes. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Tourism has put forward its own plans to open a swathe of new casino resorts in a bid to boost the leisure economy.
Less than a month ago, as Brazil’s legislators geared up for a decisive vote on sweeping new gaming regulations, it seemed as if Latin America’s sleeping giant was guaranteed to become a new major horizon for cross-sector gaming.
Now, Brazilian lawmakers are gearing up for a battle between two opposing visions for the future: the first, a wide-ranging expansion that would open up both online and land-based gaming markets in the bingo, betting and casino sectors; the second, a tourism-focused plan to open up ten new integrated resorts in two states, awarding licences solely to these brick-and-mortar venues.
Put forward in a bill titled PLS 186, the first vision is one that many gaming proponents have been pinning their hopes on for the past four years. The bill’s progress has been marred by long delays, but the proposals for an expansive online and land-based market have also garnered support from key politicians and stakeholders from across the industry, including Caesars.
Now, however, it looks like the plans are in danger of collapsing, after the Senate’s Committee on Constitutional and Judicial Affairs (CJJ) voted to reject the bill by 13 votes to two. Meanwhile, further pressure has emerged in the form of a rival bill from the Ministry of Tourism, which proposes an exclusive regulatory model for land-based casinos.
The Ministry of Tourism claim that their plan to build up to ten new casino resorts represents the only gaming regime that could work in Brazil. This echoes sentiments put forward by executives at Las Vegas Sands, who also claim that a series of multi-function casino resorts would be the most profitable gambling model for the country.
However, supporters of a more expansive regime have pointed to the limited economic benefits that such a model would supply, and have criticised the restriction of casinos to the states of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.
Speaking to colleagues in the Chamber of Deputies last month, chamber member Joao Carlos Bacelar criticised the Ministry of Tourism for putting forward plans that would only benefit two out of Brazil’s 26 states. While ten new casinos could create around 20,000 jobs, he said, a broader approach to regulate bingo, betting and casinos would bring up to 700,000 jobs to the economy.
Meanwhile, in a last-minute push to further promote their vision for the industry, representatives from Caesars recently met with Mansueto de Almeida, the Brazilian Secretary of Fiscal, Energy and Lottery Monitoring of the Ministry of Finance, to propose a new investment project on the back of any new gaming regulations.
Speaking to Games Magazine at the time, Andre Feldman, Caesar’s Brazilian representative, was explicit about the group’s support for a multi-sector regulatory approach in the region.
“There must be legislation across the market with joint support of the entire industry for it to succeed,” he said. “We have to be united.”
Following its defeat in the Senate, PLS 186 could still have one remaining route through the legislature via the National Congress. If a senator submits a request for review, it can be then be voted on in a plenary meeting.