This month in iGaming: December 2021

Casino gaming may be coming to Brazil, the Dutch market’s unexpected size comes along with a few hiccups, and Finnish authorities are sticking with their monopoly. 

Betting getting bigger in Brazil

The legalization of sports betting in Brazil was one of the biggest stories in iGaming, and the rollout of the full regulations is still hotly anticipated. But after a tumultuous final month of 2021, the Latin Giant seems poised to take yet another massive step forward. 

A piece of legislation recently introduced in the country’s congress, Bill 442/1991, would legalize casino resorts, bingo halls, jogo do bicho, and online casino gaming. A resolution to rush a vote on the bill was furiously debated and led to a number of amendments, such as lowering the tax rate for gambling enterprises from 25% to 17%. 

Deputy Felipe Carreras cited common concerns as reasons for the country to regulate. Without regulations, there’s no way to effectively combat underage and problem gambling. The fact that gambling is illegal doesn’t stop players from visiting offshore sites (surprising no one) which contribute nothing in tax revenues. 

Evangelical groups in the country’s congress vehemently opposed the bill, insisting they would boycott any vote on the legislation, which would leave the house without enough members present to stage the vote. To cap it off, they had president Jair Bolsonaro in their corner, who promised congress would have to override his veto. 

However, in the end, lawmakers voted to fast-track the bill to the Chamber of Deputies, where a final vote will be held in February. Bill 442/1991 isn’t the first gambling bill to try and make its way through the country’s congress. Three other bills to regulate casino resorts or other forms of gambling are already up for debate, one of which would only allow integrated casino resorts.

The cause of the unexpected change of heart isn’t clear. Chamber Speaker Arthur Lira denied reports that the evangelical bloc supported the measure only after they were promised a vote on a bill that would exempt certain churches from property taxes. 

A flood of activity in the Netherlands

The recently regulated Dutch market is even bigger than predicted, but the launch of the legal market is presenting lawmakers with a few issues they might not have previously considered.

The Dutch government has released a report estimating the size of the market to be €814 million ($918 million), just a little higher than the previously expected €580 million. The unexpected level of activity extends to advertising practices as well.

According to Nielsen, the information, data, and market measurement firm, the number of gambling advertisements in the Netherlands has doubled since legalization. While traditional restrictions apply to mediums such as television, the vast majority of advertising now takes place online, prompting the country’s House of Representatives to call for internet advertisements to be banned between 6:00 and 21:00.

The government aims to keep the reins of the rapidly maturing market. Dutch operators’ association VNLOK has acquiesced to a voluntary advertising code. The code will effectively extend TV and radio advertising restrictions online. Similar to measures implemented elsewhere in Europe and Scandinavia, the code will also limit one of iGaming’s most popular acquisition tools: bonuses will be capped at €250 and unavailable to players under 25. 

These measures might seem stringent compared to regulations in other countries. But they should also be taken as a sign that authorities value the gambling industry and hope to promote a healthy market by protecting vulnerable populations.

The last monopoly in the EU

While some markets are opening up, Finland is keeping a tight grip on its gaming industry.

A proposal to block PSPs from allowing Finnish players to visit offshore sites was initially ruled unconstitutional, but ultimately made its way into the country’s new reforms, which were passed into law near the end of December. The reforms also tighten advertising restrictions. 

Maarten Haijer, secretary general of the European Gaming and Betting Association, ended 2020 by making his case that Finland had missed an opportunity to drop its monopoly in favor of an open licensing system in a blog post on the association’s website. 

An open licensing system would allow Finnish players to access a greater variety of gambling products without having to visit offshore sites, Haijer argued. It would also allow EGBA licensees to operate and pay taxes in Finland.

The law is in effect from January 1, 2022, and the payment blocking measures will come into effect in 2023, meaning we won’t know how effective they are for a few years. According to the EGBA, they do little to deter players.

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