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Dangers of the Amazon

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, President, Brazil

Legalized gaming has been trying to get a foothold in Brazil for almost 20 years. But it usually got caught up in the often-nasty world of Brazilian politics, and the most recent round was no exception.

For the first time, the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies approved an omnibus gaming bill in February 2022, but the president, Jair Bolsonaro, promised a veto should the Senate also pass the bill. But in the heat of a presidential campaign, there was no appetite to tackle such a controversial issue, so the bill never arrived on the president’s desk.

Meanwhile, a heated contest between Bolsonaro and former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva came down to a cliffhanger. “Lula,” as the challenger is called, came out on top, although there are still many in Bolsonaro’s factions that dispute the results.

There was a hope that the gaming bill would gain traction during the transition, but that has not happened. Nor has the regulation of sports betting—a bill already passed by both houses—been signed by Bolsonaro, so the entire package will land in Lula’s lap when he takes office in January. But what does that mean for gaming? In a previous administration, Lula had rejected gaming in a similar manner to Bolsonaro. But have times changed?

After the recent election, the Senate promised to take up a legal framework for gaming. While Bolsonaro had threatened to veto such a bill, Lula has indicated he will respect the wishes of the Congress. The bill can also become law without the signature of the president.

Brazilian news agency BNLData reported: “We do not know the updated public opinion of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The former president was once a strong supporter of the legalization of gambling, even stating it publicly on several occasions in the 2002 campaign and at the beginning of his government in 2003,” but a corruption scandal ended those chances.

While one might assume the Chamber of Deputies would again pass a version of the bill passed in ’22, observers point out that many conservatives ousted supporters of that bill, and it will be difficult to garner the same support as it had last year. And the Senate also had some conservative winners, so support there is unknown at this time. Most religious groups, an important sector of the Brazilian population, oppose gaming.

But with a sinking economy and a desire to boost tourism, the numbers to be created by a healthy gaming industry can’t be ignored. Supporters of the bill estimate that legalization would generate R$150 billion (US$28.5 billion) in taxable revenue.

Lula will be under pressure to do something to boost the economy, and gaming can produce two things Lula needs desperately—taxes and employment.

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