The history of the gambling market in Brazil is not dissimilar to the history of the gambling market in many other countries. As is often the case in countries with a cultural love of sports, Brazil has long had a passion for gambling. However, in the 1940s, with a change in government came a change in betting laws, and all forms of gambling but lotteries and betting on horseraces were outlawed.
Video gaming machines became popular in the 1990s, as a legal loophole allowed the use of bingo machines if they supported entities like non-profits or religious organizations. A bribery scandal in 2004 led to a short closure of the bingo loophole, but it was quickly overturned due to overwhelming demand.
The rapid rise of internet gambling saw the medium become very popular in Brazil. In 2011 the government passed a law that prohibited the use of credit or debit cards for placing bets, whether online or off, but exemptions were made for the world cup in 2014. This was the culmination of several government attempts to curb online gambling by outlawing it or prohibiting Internet Service Providers from hosting gambling sites.
There are numerous proposed changes to the laws governing gambling in Brazil. Bills legalizing poker games for cash, casino gaming, slot machine gaming, and bingo have all been proposed. A bill legalizing fixed-odds sports betting was passed in December 2018. The Ministry of Economy was given two years to establish regulations and procedures, and after a public consultation, the law is set to be implemented this year.
The Brazilian market is the focus of a tremendous amount of attention throughout the iGaming industry, as after over seventy years the industry is set to be re-regulated. President Jair Bolsonaro has publicly stated his wish that gambling regulation be decentralized. This would leave the regulation of gambling activities up to the individual states, similar to the situations in Canada and the United States.
At the end of 2018, the Brazilian government passed legislation legalizing sports betting. The Ministry of the Economy was given two years in which to make the appropriate regulations. As part of the process, the Ministry held a public consultation and accepted over 1800 suggestions from the public. As Brazilian law traditionally does not distinguish between online and offline gambling, the reforms will apply equally to online and land-based bookmakers.
Payment is a tricky issue, as the law bans the use of credit cards and debit cards for gambling-related payments. Many bettors choose to use alternative methods of payment that do not require a card. One popular option is Boleto Bancario, which facilitates the transfer of funds without the use of a credit or debit card. Other e-wallets are also very popular throughout the country.
Legal Forms of Betting
On-track horse race betting is legally allowed and enjoys a high level of popularity, though race organizers are keeping a wary eye on the upcoming changes the market will experience with the advent of legalized sports betting, as this could divert punter’s attention to other activities.
Poker is regarded as a game of skill, so buy-in games are legal for operators to organize. Games with a cash prize, however, would be considered gambling, and are therefore illegal.
Bingo is illegal. However, bingo games organized by non-profit entities like religious organizations and amateur sports clubs to finance their interests and activities are allowed, and the practice has proven to be consistently popular - there are over 1000 bingo centers featuring video terminals across the country.
State-run lotteries are allowed. The Caixa Economica Federal has a constitutional monopoly on federal lottery operations. The government has revealed some plans to privatize instant lotteries, providing another option in addition to the federal lottery, but so far the initiative has failed to attract sufficient interest from any companies with the capability to carry out the plan.
Casino gambling and slot machines are prohibited. A proposed amendment to the 1941 law would allow gambling in leisure resorts and casino hotels, but so not much progress has been made in this regard, and there are no concrete plans to enact any changes in the near future.
With over 200 million people, Brazil is the sixth most populated country in the world. Combined with a nationwide passion for sports and betting and an estimated 60% internet penetration, this makes the sports gambling market in Brazil a tantalizing prospect for online casino and sportsbook operators. After re-regulation, the size of the sports betting market in Brazil could possibly rank as one of the largest in the world.
A report commissioned by the Remote Gaming Association (RGA) and carried out by consulting firm KPMG valued the unregulated Brazilian market at over $2.1 billion. In the same report, KPMG recommended a taxation scheme based on revenue instead of turnover and the implementation of effective safe gambling measures. The Brazilian Legal Gaming Institute has estimated the value of all illegal and underground gambling to be over $6 billion a year.
Legalization enjoys wide public support. According to a survey called “Global Views on Vices 2019”, 66% of Brazilians support the legalization of casinos, with only 25% against it. The numbers are similar for online gambling, with 64% supporting legalization and 25% against.
Taxes and Fees
The government has previously announced that licenses will have an initial cost of BRL 3m (US$735,000) and monthly fees of BRL 20,000 ($4,900) for land-based operations and BRL 30,000 ($7300) for online casinos. A combined online and land-based license will cost BRL 45,000 ($11,000) per month. Applicants will need to prove they have capital reserves of BRL 6 million ($1.5 million) and attest that they have never operated in unregulated markets.
The government proposed a 1% tax on betting turnover in a draft Presidential decree, but later revised that figure upwards to 3% in accordance with the initial bill. Retail betting shops could see turnover taxes as high as 6%.
Popular Sports and Major Players
It should come as no surprise that football is as massively popular throughout Brazil as it is in the rest of Latin America. However, several other sports are also beloved by punters and other sports fans. There are large-sized sports betting markets for basketball and beach volleyball, and punters bet on both domestic and international leagues. Mixed Martial Arts competitions are very popular to bet on, owing largely to Jiu-Jitsu’s Brazilian roots. Betting on horse racing, of course, is widely practiced.
Until upcoming legislation comes into effect, online operators are prohibited from being based in Brazil. However, operators and sportsbooks based in Europe and elsewhere enjoy wide popularity - perhaps due to the lack of local competition. Some of the European operators that face the Brazilian market are Unibet, Betsson, MarathonBet, 188Bet, Betdaq, Betfair, Betfred, Betvictor, Ladbrokes, Mybet, Pinnacle Sports, TitanBet, Unibet, and William Hill. In an effort to be first out of the gate when legalization goes into effect, Betsson recently purchased a 75% stake in Brazilian sportsbook Sua Posta.