Impeachment No Impediment For Brazil’s Gambling Boosters
16TH MAY 2016 | WRITTEN BY: MARINA PERGHER & JAMES KILSBY
The impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff is not likely to derail efforts toward passing a major new gambling law this year, according to politicians and government officials in Brasilia.
Brazilian politics were plunged into a state of upheaval last week as the country’s Senate voted to suspend President Rousseff from office while she is put on trial over allegations of budgetary fraud.
However, several sources as well as politicians speaking at last week’s Brazilian Gaming Congress in Brasilia insisted the unprecedented move would not impede the progress of expanded gambling legislation currently being considered in the Brazil’s Congress.
Last week’s Senate vote means Brazil will be led for the next few months by Michel Temer, hitherto the country’s vice president, but a member of a different political party to Rousseff.
The Senate’s trial of Rousseff may take up to six months, and if two-thirds of senators then vote to ultimately impeach her, Temer will assume the presidency on a permanent basis.
Speaking at the Brazilian Gaming Congress, one congressional supporter of expanded gambling predicted that Temer, a former law professor, will not be an obstacle for gaming legislation.
“I am sure that he views this subject very positively,” Herculano Passos, chairman of the tourism committee in Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies, told conference delegates in Brasilia.
Other lawmakers involved in drafting gambling legislation are reported to have already broached the issue with close allies of Temer, receiving similar assurances.
Meanwhile, there is a school of thought that President Rousseff’s downfall may even add momentum to expanded gambling efforts.
“I believe that the moment has arrived for the legalisation and regulation of gaming in Brazil, and I believe that the impeachment of President Dilma will be good for the approval process,” one Brazilian gambling observer told GamblingCompliance last week.
Despite the uncertain political environment, gambling legislation has been steadily advancing on several fronts in Brasilia in recent months.
With Rousseff’s trial set to take place before the Senate, it now seems unclear when Congress’ upper house will come to consider a major gambling bill that was first passed by a powerful Senate committee in December.
But other politicians speaking at last week’s Brazilian Gaming Congress suggested an overlapping process in the Congress’ lower house remains on track.
Elmar Nascimento, a federal deputy from Bahia State, told conference delegates that a new legislative proposal would be introduced later this week before a special gaming committee formed last year within Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies.
The committee, which Nascimento chairs, was established to examine potential regulatory models for expanded gambling and come up with a proposal that will effectively serve as the Chamber’s response to the pending Senate bill.
Nascimento predicted the committee’s forthcoming measure would be cleared by the gaming panel later in May, and then voted on and passed by the full Chamber sometime in June.
After that, he said, the bill should be considered by the Senate and then sent to the desk of Brazil’s president for final approval sometime in the second half of the year.
Nascimento recently published a detailed outline of how he thinks the forthcoming gambling bill should be structured, and last week he offered a few clues as to what exactly will be included in the measure.
Among other things, the federal deputy said the bill is likely to limit casinos to one in each of Brazil’s 27 states, with Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo permitted to each host two more, for maximum of 31 casinos in total.
The measure may also propose a limited number of concessions for slot machines, according to the gaming committee chairman.
The pending Senate bill would authorise up to 35 casino-resorts, as well as potentially hundreds of land-based bingo halls and an undefined number of licences for websites offering online casino and bingo games.
Land-based casinos have been banned in Brazil since the 1940s, but their potential return is likely to draw interest from various international casino companies — provided an appropriate regulatory framework is put in place.
Speaking at the Brazilian Gaming Congress, Oscar Madureira, senior legal counsel for Macau casino operator Melco Crown, urged Brazil to “keep it simple” when it comes to establishing a taxation regime for gambling.
Jan Jones Blackhurst, senior vice president of government relations for Nevada’s Caesars Entertainment, said casino-resorts could give international tourists another reason to visit Brazil and its various natural attractions.
However, the former Las Vegas city mayor also cautioned that a company such as Caesars would “expect stability” and “need clarity” when weighing whether to invest in Brazil.
“You need to be our partners and make sure that laws are in place to create this system,” Jones added.
That view was echoed in additional remarks given to the gaming congress by Nelson Marquezelli, a federal deputy from Sao Paulo and another member of the Chamber of Deputies’ special gaming committee.
Marquezelli said Brazil needed a new gambling law that was “clear and precise,” which also recognised the wider economic potential of the industry.
“We cannot look to the gambling industry only as a source of revenue,” he said.