The legalisation of casino gambling in Brazil has been in the works for some time but now a political scandal could threaten its implementation.
The fate of the proposed gambling legislation is unknown as a disgraced oil and mining billionaire reportedly revealed illegal bribes he allegedly made to lawmakers in the country.
According to media outlet G3Newswire, the Brazilian business magnate, Eike Batista, wanted to partner with offshore firms to turn Rio De Janeiro’s Hotel Gloria into a casino.
Mr Batista was once one of the richest men in the world but due to a downturn in the commodities market, he lost his fortune. He has also only just been released from jail on corruption and money laundering charges.
While he waits for his trial, it has been revealed Mr Batista planned to invest in the casino history, with signed contracts with slot machine manufacturers already completed.
Prosecutors are now alleging he bribed the former governor of the state of Rio De Janeiro, Sergio Cabral, with BRL 55.6 million.
Since he wants his prison sentence reduced, Mr Batisita, who is under house arrest, is reportedly willing to release details of “the bribe that he gave to congressmen so that the law that legalises casinos is approved”.
As a result of the political scandal, the legislation could be dismissed.
G3Newswire reported many lawmakers will likely withdraw their support to legalise casinos in the biggest country in Latin America.
The proposed legislation which would reverse the 70-plus-year-old ban on casinos is currently being discussed in the Chamber of Deputies. Supporters are citing an economy boost for the reason they want casino gambling legalised.
While the current law allows poker and horse betting, since they’re skill-based games, this new legislation would allow up to 35 casinos with at least one in every state in Brazil.
In addition, the measure would allow the more flourishing states including Rio De Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais to get up to three casino resorts.
One man who is hoping the legislation is not stopped by the scandal is Las Vegas casino tycoon, Sheldon Adelson. According to media reports, he is mulling over an $8 billion casino pitch in Brazil.
If Brazil does continue with the legislation, the country could become one of the biggest gambling destinations in the world, alongside Las Vegas and Macau and potentially Japan – depending on how the new casino industry goes.
The problem with Mr Adelson’s pitch is he is against online gambling – he believes it threatens land-based gambling. Since Brazil is also in the midst of expanding online gambling – an online poker bill passed the Senate recently – his offer may be rejected.
The Brazilian Legal Gaming Institute said “all of the players in the industry know that the mogul is critical of sports betting, online gaming and of video bingo,”
“He is interested in the fact that Singapore’s [gambling] model is imported, that is, that few casinos [are allowed] and that the rest of the modalities are not legalised.”
Regardless, Mr Adelson has met with the Brazilian President, Michel Temer, where the casino project was discussed along with the country’s infrastructure.
If the government can overlook the scandal with Mr Batista and accept foreign bookmakers the UK bookmaker, William Hill believes it will be “one of the most significant events in gaming history”.
However, it is not looking good since the scandal mimics the 2004 incident where it was revealed gangsters had become invested in the bingo industry. The criminals had also bribed lawmakers and government officials in order to maintain power.
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