Deputy Bacelar states that 'this is the time' to release gambling in Brazil
Photo: Chamber of Deputies

Federal Deputy Bacelar (Podemos-BA) acts as coordinator of the working group created by the president of the Chamber of Deputies, Arthur Lira, this month. The intention is to debate and move forward with a project that provides for the release of all types of gambling, such as casinos, bingos, slot machines, among others.

In an interview to the website O Antagonista, the federal deputy mentioned that it may be feasible to face the resistance of the evangelical caucus. In addition, he rebutted criticisms that link crimes and irregularities with a possible release of the gaming sector in the country.

Deputy Bacelar also pointed out that alcoholic beverages continue to affect people throughout Brazil and it was never considered to close this sector of the economy. “Alcohol is much more addictive than gambling and nobody, as far as I know, is defending the closing of the liquor market,” he said.

Regarding the support of several parliamentarians for the legalization of the gambling market in Brazil, Bacelar downplayed and stressed that this is the time to discuss all ways to boost the economy.

“Because we have an [economic] crisis that the country is going through, including the crisis in the tourism sector, which is still very incipient. So, we will be able to take advantage of the potential that the game has to generate income, jobs and taxes, and allocate part of these resources to dissemination in Brazil abroad. Now is the time”, declared the deputy.

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“Alcohol is much more addictive than gambling and no one defends the closing of the liquor market”

In an interview with Antagonista, federal deputy Bacelar, from Podemos da Bahia, said that it is easier to launder money in motels than in casinos, by refuting the association of crimes with a possible legalization of gambling in Brazil.

The congressman is the coordinator of the working group that was created by Arthur Lira this month with the mission of approving, still in 2021, a project that will release all games, including casinos, bingos, slot machines and Jogo do Bicho.

Bacelar, saying he is optimistic about the process, believes that this time it will be possible to face the historic resistance of the evangelical bench. On the concerns with addicts to gambling, he compared: “Alcohol is much more addictive than gambling and nobody advocates, as far as I know, closing the liquor market.”

The deputy also downplayed the private interests of some parliamentarians linked to the theme: “How many deputies are linked to agribusiness and are there defending agendas of interest to agribusiness?”.

Bacelar also admitted that the matter was part of the negotiations for the support of congressmen for the election of Arthur Lira to the presidency of the Chamber.

Read the full interview below:

O  Antagonista: Gambling is a recurrent topic in Congress and projects on the subject have already been rejected a few times. Why do you believe that now is the time to resume this debate?

Dep. Bacelar: On October 3, it will be 80 years since the ban on gambling in Brazil. And since then, the game has continued, because there is no option in society for not playing. Society only has two options: legal gambling or illegal gambling.

And why resume the debate at this point? Because we have an [economic] crisis that the country is going through, including the crisis in the tourism sector, which is still very incipient. So, we will be able to take advantage of the potential that the gambling has to generate income, jobs and taxes, and allocate part of these resources to dissemination in Brazil abroad. This is the moment.

O Antagonista: The Executive is interested in moving forward with this project.

Dep. Bacelar: Look, I’m an opposition deputy, I don’t follow negotiations with the Executive. What I have information is that the government is divided on this matter. The current head of the Civil House [Senator Ciro Nogueira] has a bill in the Senate that calls for the legalization of games in Brazil.

But, look, gambling is legal in Brazil. What is not allowed is the private initiative to explore the game. The lottery, the game played by the government, moves billions of reais a year. Illegal gambling earns even more.

O Antagonista: Were the president of the Chamber, Arthur Lira, and Ciro Nogueira himself the ones who determined the resumption of this debate?

Dep. Bacelar: This movement came from the parliamentary front in defense of the regulatory framework for games. But, in his campaign [from Arthur Lira, to the President of the Chamber], we said that we would support him, but we would like him to guide the matter. It is a pre-campaign claim [Lira].

O Antagonista: As a candidate, in 2018, Bolsonaro said that “we know that the casino here in Brazil, if it had one, would be a large laundry, it would be used to launder money. And also to destroy families”. But after he was elected, his children and members of the government started to accept the proposal. Do you think Bolsonaro would veto any approval of the matter?

Dep. Bacelar: This is a risk in the legislative process. The president has the power of veto, but we can also overturn that veto. I sincerely hope that [the veto] does not happen. The working group will build consensus in the Chamber. We have surveys that indicate that more than 50% of deputies are in favor of approving the regulatory framework for games. We are very optimistic, it is a good project for the country.

O Antagonista: Will you be able to face the resistance of the evangelical segment?

Dep. Bacelar: This resistance is very, very localized, from representatives of the most conservative wing of evangelicals, from deputies very close to the leadership of certain groups. But it is not true that the evangelical bench is against it. Marcelo Crivella [connected to Universal], former mayor of Rio, used to say that only the revenue from the games could take Rio out of bankruptcy.

O Antagonista: Sectors of the Federal Police and the Federal Public Ministry have already demonstrated against the legalization of gambling, fearing money laundering, for example.

Dep. Bacelar: These are sectors of the PF and the Public Ministry, some associations, some members who sometimes speak out against. There’s this money laundering thing… Where is it easier, theoretically, to launder money: at a motel or at the game, where taxation is higher? Will the state put an inspector at the motel door to count how many cars are coming in? No more money circulating in the casino, it’s all on ccredit cards. We have control measures and bodies at our disposal.

O Antagonista: But the control bodies have missed so much in Brazil, deputy…

Dep. Bacelar: The Brazilian financial system is a world reference in control. But, forgive me, now because the control bodies let a lot go by, are we going to shut down the Brazilian economy? Another thing: it is said that gambling operators in Brazil no longer even have where to store money, it’s at home, apartment, suitcase… If it were easy to launder money, were they supporting the legalization of gambling? I have been talking to Federal Police specialists and they have told me that this possibility is practically zero. Also because it is easier to launder money in jewelry and no one advocates closing jewelry stores.

The gambling only increases in Brazil. And traffickers and militias are taking by force the game points that exist. Things have to be transparent. Gambling is a very sensitive economic activity and we need to have security, control, supervision. If we don’t legalize gambling, that’s what leads to corruption.

O Antagonista: What will take to a foreigner to come to Brazil to play? Do you really believe in the tourism potential of gambling?

Dep. Bacelar: The game does not attract tourists. Nobody goes to a city just to play. But the tourist stays one more day to play. The gambling holds the tourist one more day in the city. But we’re not just legalizing casino. We are legalizing Jogo do Bicho, online gambling… Without this legalization, we are not making money, losing billions in revenue and without consumer protection.

O Antagonista: Are you concerned about gambling addicts and all these more sensitive issues that may involve legalizing gaming?

Dep. Bacelar: Go easy. Ludopathy affects, on average, a very small percentage of the population in other countries. Here, we have no way of doing this research yet. Alcohol is much more addictive than gambling and, as far as I know, nobody advocates closing the liquor market. A registration can also be made that prevents the ludopath from playing. Today there are recovery programs. The casino itself identifies who is going to play.

O Antagonista: We know that there is a strong lobby in favor of gambling. And we also know that there are many parliamentarians in favor of the issue with a direct or indirect interest in this issue, as Crusoé has already revealed.

Dep. Bacelar: In my case, I never played. The times I went to Las Vegas, I went to parties, concerts, MMA, restaurants, I saw the Grand Canyon, but I never played a penny on any machine. I defend this because I think it is a way for us to strengthen tourism in Brazil and a way for us to raise funds. I don’t include myself in this group. But if there is such a group, this is not illegitimate. How many deputies are linked to agribusiness and are there defending agendas of interest to agribusiness? This is from democracy, this is not nebulous. May each one there not be ashamed of the representation he makes.