At one time, casinos were legal in Brazil, but that came to an end shortly after World War II. The new government was strongly opposed to gambling, considering it a major contributor to organized crime, money laundering, prostitution, and other blights. First, in 1941, Brazil adopted the Criminal Contravention Act, which prohibits unauthorized sports betting. Another law followed in 1946, forbidding many other forms of gambling in the country, including the operation of any brick and mortar casinos.
Despite these restrictions, when online gambling started gaining momentum at the turn of the century, Brazil did not add an amendment or enact a new law to address its legality. Foreign online gambling companies therefore perceived this gray area of the law as an opening for them, and took advantage. Many foreign online gambling operators not only accept Brazilians as customers, but specifically cater to them by making their websites available in Portuguese. There are no regulations in place to monitor these sites, and the Brazilian government, despite voicing strong opposition, has been unable to keep them from operating and proliferating.
Gambling in Brazil Today
Today gambling is a thriving business in Brazil, not only the state-sanctioned horse racing, lottery, Bingo, and regulated sports betting, but also online gambling, which remains unregulated. As Brazil continues to keep pace with other large countries in the world, it is believed that it will also come into the modern age of online gambling. Currently there are more foreign sites available to Brazilian players than ever, but to date, no foreign casino has a license to operate in Brazil, and there are no licensed operators in Brazil. 2019 more than likely will be the year that it all changes.
According to iGaming Review Magazine, online operators are currently earning more than US$200 million yearly from Brazilian players. According to a presentation at an international seminar on the Brazilian gaming market, Brazilians’ online gambling and betting today amounts to about US$800 million per year.
Inasmuch as all of the online gambling in Brazil is unregulated, the Brazilian government receives no revenue at all from these activities that can be used on social and health projects.
Poker, both in card room tournaments and online gambling venues, has become very popular in Brazil. 2.5 million Brazilians are registered on online poker sites, at least 50% of whom play daily.
The recent emergence of a group of world class players from Brazil is also introducing many new players to the game. At the 2013 Latin American Poker Tour final table last March, one person still playing was the world famous Brazilian football (soccer) sensation, Ronaldo, better known as “The Phenomenon.” Then the Brazilian Series of Poker (BSOP), Brazil’s largest annual poker tour, wrapped up its 8th season. The 2013 BSOP Main Event, held in Sao Paulo November 27 to December 4, 2013 attracted top players from many countries.
Problem Gambling in Brazil
The easy access to online gambling in Brazil has brought with it a corresponding increase in problem gambling. Several studies have been undertaken to determine how prevalent problem gambling is in Brazil and what kinds of factors are most likely to contribute to its development.
A 2010 study of the prevalence of and socio-demographic correlations of problem gambling in Brazil, based on a nationwide sample of 3,007 individuals, age 14 and up, indicated that 1% of the respondents met the DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling and another 1.3% met the criteria for problem gambling. Those identified as pathological gamblers spent 20% of the household income on gambling, as compared to 16.9% for the problem gamblers and just 5.4% for the social gamblers. The study showed that young males who had dropped out of school and were unemployed were at the highest risk for pathological gambling.
A total of 661 people from that sample were teenagers, age 14-17. According to a 2011 report focusing specifically on that age group, 2.8% were identified as possible problem gamblers on the Lie/Bet Questionnaire, and 1.6% met the DSM-IV criteria for problem or pathological gambling. As corroborated by other studies, males were significantly more likely than females to have a gambling problem. Other factors associated with having a gambling problem were dropping out of school and lack of interest in religion. Another important finding was that the average amount of time between first regular gambling involvement and development of a problem was less than 4 months. The study provided strong support for the finding that adolescents can be highly vulnerable to the effects of gambling.
Some Good News
Another interesting finding came from a research study using a sample of 63 males in a Sao Paolo outpatient treatment program for pathological gambling. 33 of the patients received a physical activity program along with their other treatment, while the remaining 30 did not. The study was flawed since the participants chose which group they wanted to be in, instead of being randomly assigned. However, follow up assessments showed that the patients in the physical activity group were less anxious and depressed and less tempted to gamble than those who did not partake in the physical activity. This suggests that incorporating a physical activity program along with other therapy can be beneficial.
Compared to the wealth of published material in many other countries concerning treatment for pathological gambling, very little was found for Brazil. This is a serious problem and those who are affected by it, whether in Brazil or any other country, need to know that help is available and where and how to get it.
Brazil is a growing force to be reckoned with politically, economically and in the world of sports. Because of this growth and the 2019 census putting the Brazilian population at 200.4 million people, there is a huge potential for legalized online gambling revenue to be had by the government of Brazil.