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BrazilThe largest country in Latin America, and one of the most populous nations in the world, Brazil is a land that is diverse both in its geography and its population. From its history of tribal nations to its centuries of rule by Portugal, Brazil has a long, rich history, and is now one of the world’s most important nations when it comes to the global economy.

The nation’s relationship with gambling has been an interesting one. Most of the country is Catholic, and religious sensibilities run deep here – not normally a positive indicator for the gaming industry. Sure enough, there are plenty of restrictions on how Brazilians can choose to gamble. For much of the last century, there has been a ban on games of chance, but there are some exceptions, which has made this dangerous territory for those thinking about expanding their operations.

A Long-Term Ban Begins to Crack

Brazil’s stringent laws against gambling began to come into place in 1941. That’s when the Criminal Contravention Act outlawed all games of chance in the country, offering up the potential of jail time for those caught operating such games in public. A few years later, all previous licenses that had been issued were nullified, meaning that by 1946, there were no more casinos available in the country.

Further restrictions would come as well. In the 1960s, licenses for lotteries were also withdrawn, leaving only the state-owned bank to run a national lottery and other games. That situation exists to this day, at least on the federal level; state governments are also permitted to operate their own lottery drawings.

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In other cases, some liberalization has been allowed, though it is often unclear what is actually allowed and what the federal government prohibits. Take, for instance, the issue of bingo. In 1993, a new piece of legislation allowed for bingo halls to be legalized, though they were designed to benefit sports clubs and federations – a sort of charity gaming.

In 2004, however, the government reversed course, abolishing the laws that had allowed these bingo houses to exist. While officials likely hoped that would put a stop to the activity, this was not the case and it remained a matter of some dispute as to whether the thousands of bingo operations running in the country were legal or not. Owners argued that the Criminal Contravention Act no longer applied to them, since the game was a regulated, legal activity for some time. Some venues event succeeded at times in receiving injunctions to have their locations reopened.

Eventually, however, the government succeeded in making it clear that bingo was once again illegal. That didn’t stop the game from being played, though, as hall owners continue to run their games to this day. According to some estimates, Sao Paulo alone is home to more than 600 venues that manage to operate without being caught by the police – or perhaps with their tacit approval.

Slot machines exist in a similarly illegal position in Brazilian law. A 1998 law allowed for some slots in various locations, but when it became clear that these laws were being exploited to push gambling beyond what was intended, the laws were rescinded – though it’s far from impossible to find machines out there to this day.

One area where laws have remained relatively constant is horse racing. The racing industry has always been popular among the Brazilian public, and even the major bans of the 1940s exempted parimutuel betting if it took place at the track. Off-track betting is also allowed at authorized locations, and bettors can also wager on races simulcasted from around the world. Interestingly, many poker tournaments are also held in Brazil, with the government treating it as a game of skill rather than chance – at least in the tournament format.

Online Operations Not Permitted

Not surprisingly, Brazilian authorities haven’t taken a positive stance towards online gambling. However, this is one area in which the age of the country’s gaming laws have truly started to show. While the Criminal Contravention Act clearly makes it illegal to run an Internet casino – and this is not under any dispute – it did nothing to stop players from seeking out opportunities at online gaming sites established in foreign countries.

This means that Brazilians often play at online casinos and poker rooms, but that none of the sites in question are regulated or taxed in the country. At times, there have been efforts to stop this activity; most recently, in 2014, a law was passed that made sure that online transactions would be subject to Brazilian law, a move that officials hoped would cut the flow of money to these foreign sites. But while it may have made it somewhat harder to fund accounts, it had very little practical impact on stopping citizens from gambling over the Internet.

While this situation may seem like one that would discourage operators, it turns out that a number of the world’s biggest and most trusted gaming firms allow Brazilians to play on their sites. These Internet casinos feature software from some of the best developers in the world, including:

  • NetEnt
  • Microgaming
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  • Betsoft

Some of the most popular online casinos in Brazil include Dhoze Casino, Jackpot City and the Spin Palace online casino, all of which support our currency, language and local deposit options.

Gaming Once Again Under Consideration

If there’s one great motivator for governments to authorize gaming expansions, it’s the promise of more revenue. That’s an attractive proposal for Brazilian politicians, particularly as the nation’s economy is mired in recession and running large deficits.

That has led to reports that some lawmakers might be open to the idea of allowing some forms of gambling as an alternative to raising taxes. The argument is that Brazilians are already gambling online and in other countries, and that legalizing at least some activity might be enough to bring much of that money back inside the nation’s borders. Any such proposal would likely include creating a federal agency to oversee bingo halls, casinos, or whatever else might be authorized.

In late 2015, a bill to authorize up to 35 casinos (divided up among the states) passed through the Senate’s Special Committee on National Development. That bill would also allow for video lottery terminals and Internet gambling, including sports betting. The legislation is still some way from being heard by the whole Senate, and would still need to be passed by the other legislative house and signed by President Dilma Rousseff, who has not been a proponent of expanded gaming. In fact, Rousseff recently vetoed a bill that would have opened up the country’s sports betting market.

That means that it’s still a bit of a longshot for gambling to come back to Brazil after decades of (mostly) lingering in the shadows. But the fact that the topic is being discussed seriously is enough to suggest that gamblers should keep a close eye on further developments, as the gaming landscape could quickly change based on what the government chooses to permit.

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