Is Brazil’s New Far-Right President Threatening the Country’s Gambling Legalization Effort?

Brazil’s newly-elected President could leave it to individual states to determine whether they want to legalize gambling
Far-right congressman and former army captain Jair Bolsonaro has been declared the new President of Brazil after winning a sweeping victory over Workers’ Party candidate Fernando Haddad in Sunday’s runoff election.
Mr. Bolsonaro won the first round of the presidential election on October 7 to face his rival, Mr. Haddad, in Sunday’s winner-takes-all round. Brazil’s new leader won 55.2% of all votes cast, while Mr. Haddad won 44.8%.
Brazil’s election campaign has been the most divisive one in many years and each of the camps argued that a victory for their rival could lead to the country’s destruction. Latin America’s largest democracy was led by the leftist Workers’ Party in the period between 2013 and 2016, when former President Dilma Rouseff was impeached.
Supporters of Mr. Bolsonaro are hopeful that the new President of Brazil will introduce a fresh approach to governing that will heal the country from its deep economic wounds. Far-rightists have been blaming the Workers’ Party’s policies for Brazil’s economic struggles, but it is yet to be seen whether the new leader of Latin America’s largest country will be able to mend the damage.
Controversial Views on Sensitive Topics
It can be said that Mr. Bolsonaro was the most controversial presidential candidate and his fiery opinions during the election campaign drew extreme ire and criticism from in- and outside the country.
Many likened his tactics in the presidency race to US President Trump’s approach to policy-making. He has even been nicknamed Trump of the Tropics by political influencers. Others went further, suggesting that his political rhetoric dangerously resembled neo-fascism and warning that his election would pose a great threat to Brazil’s democracy.
His eulogies to military dictatorship and his incendiary comments on tender topics such as women, LGBT, and minorities’ rights are what he became best known for. And such comments have drawn criticism not only from inside the world’s fourth-largest democracy, but also from the rest of the world.
During a São Paulo show earlier this month, Roger Waters, the founder of legendary rock band Pink Floyd, condemned the far-right politician, now President-elect, in front of a 45,000-strong crowd. The musician said that he was “against the resurgence of fascism all over the world” and was “a believer in human rights”. His words were welcomed by many of his fans, but others booed him during the gig.
And his comments started the Twitter hashtag #ELENÃO (#NOTHIM), used by users who opposed the election of Mr. Bolsonaro.
“They told us we cannot talk about the election after 10 o’clock. We have 30 seconds. This is our last chance to resist fascism before Sunday. Not him!”, Waters said during a Pink Floyd gig in São Paulo
Mr. Bolsonaro’s Stance on Gambling
While Mr. Bolsonaro’s economic policy plan is not very clear yet, it has become known that he would pursue the adoption of plans that very much resemble those of market-friendly right-wing governments in other parts of the region. His election campaign proposals included reduction of government “waste” and of state intervention in the economy.
The cash-strapped country urgently needs new sources of revenue and it is yet to be seen what these will be. Brazil’s previous government considered the legalization of gambling as one such source. And international analysts have tipped the country as global gambling’s “sleeping giant”.
With very few exceptions, gambling is illegal in Brazil. But lawmakers looked to change the legal status of gaming and sports betting as well as of the locally popular lottery-like game jogo do bicho in a move that was hoped to create a behemoth gambling market worth well over R$20 billion (approximately $5.5 billion).
Two gambling bills have been discussed for years in the Brazilian Parliament – PL 442/1991 and PLS 186/2014 – both calling for a sweeping reform that would legalize land-based casinos, bingo halls, online gaming and sports betting, and jogo do bicho, among other gambling options. However, both pieces have failed to gain the necessary political support to take force as laws.
With Mr. Bolsonaro’s comments on other sensitive issues, many would assume that his stance on a topic as controversial as gambling would be quite negative. During his election campaign, the President-elect said he was against the legalization of gambling. However, he pointed out in comments to local media that individual states could be allowed to decide whether they wanted gambling on their territories or not.
While the new President of Brazil is clearly not a big fan of gambling, it seems that the issue could still be considered in the nation’s Parliament. While the matter could eventually be left to states to deal with as they feel inclined, a federal legislation should still be adopted. Expectations are big that Mr. Bolsonaro and his administration will bring a much-needed economic improvement. And it is yet to be seen whether gambling will be one of the potential sources of that long-anticipated economic boost.
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