In a landmark move, Brazil’s Senate Constitution and Justice Committee (CCJ) approved the legalization of casinos, bingos, and jogo do bicho. Senator Irajá’s Bill 2,234/2022 received 14 votes in favor and 12 against. This bill will now advance to the House Plenary and, barring any modifications will proceed to presidential sanction.

This decision comes after numerous delays and resistance from opponents of legalized gambling. The CCJ finally voted on Senator Irajá’s proposal, which aims to bring gambling into the legal framework in Brazil.

During the opening discussions, Senator Irajá emphasized the potential social and economic benefits of legalizing gambling. He urged his fellow senators to consider these advantages, highlighting successful examples from cities such as Las Vegas, Cancún, and Macau, as well as other Latin American countries. “All democratic and civilized countries like Brazil, which regulated gaming and betting, said enough to illegal gambling and grew socially and economically,” he stated.

The senator pointed out that among G20 nations, only Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, along with Brazil, do not permit gambling, primarily due to their Islamic majorities. Among OECD members, only Iceland lacks a legalized gambling sector.

“No country that legalized gambling has gone back on regulating the activity, which shows that the benefits are visible. Among them, tax collection and the creation of formal jobs. Today in Brazil, the jogo do bicho alone provides more than 1 million informal jobs and illegal games operate under the shadow of the law without collecting taxes,” Senator Irajá noted, according to Games Magazine Brazil.

He projected that legalizing gambling could generate approximately R$22 billion (US$4.05 billion) annually in direct taxes. “Whoever does not want legal gambling, with limits, criteria, accreditation and supervision, is favoring illegal gambling. What is the benefit of clandestine gambling? None,” he concluded.

Despite opposition efforts to sway undecided senators with what Irajá described as baseless arguments, the committee voted 14 to 12 in favor of the bill, reflecting significant progress in the legislative process. The bill will now be presented to the Senate Plenary.

Two Years in the Making

Bill 2,234/2022, initially introduced in the Chamber of Deputies as Bill 442.91 in 1991, has been under Senate consideration since 2022. The proposal allows for the establishment of casinos in tourist areas and integrated leisure complexes, such as luxury hotels, restaurants, bars, and cultural event venues.

The bill specifies that one casino can be established in each state and the Federal District, with exceptions for São Paulo, which may have up to three casinos, and Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, Amazonas, and Pará, which may have up to two each, proportional to their population or territory size.

Casinos may also be situated on maritime vessels, with a nationwide limit of ten, and on riverboats with at least 50 rooms. The latter will be subject to specific regulations based on the length of the rivers they operate on, and cannot remain anchored in the same location for more than 30 consecutive days.

Additionally, the proposal sets out regulations for bingo games, both card and electronic, allowing one legal entity per 700,000 inhabitants in each state to be accredited to operate these games. These authorizations will be valid for 25 years and can be renewed for an equivalent period. Horse racing operations will also see changes, with turf entities accredited by the Ministry of Agriculture being permitted to operate bingo and video bingo games concurrently with horse racing.