Ahead of this month’s Brazilian Gaming Conference (BgC), SBC Americas spoke with Ewa Bakun, head of content for show organiser Clarion Gaming, to gauge how the market is currently shaping up and explore its future potential.
Talking about the current state of gambling in Brazil, she said: “For any consumer business, Brazil is a significant market to reckon with, and so it is for the gambling sector. It has a population of over 200 million people, growing broadband adoption, as well as a passion for sports and an appetite for gambling.
“The latter has been demonstrated through the history of legal gambling, current availability and acceptance for illegal gambling such as bingo and jogo do bicho and the numbers of Brazilians gambling at casinos at the border or internationally. Brazil, it can be safely said, must be on top of expansion plans for most gambling companies.”
And while Bakun believes that a lack of regulation has been an obstacle so far, she predicted that that is likely to change, saying: “The country has been reviewing regulatory options with bills pending in both the legislative and executive branches, aimed at regulating all gambling verticals and channels.”
She added: “An economic crisis is often an opportunity for the gambling sector, which is proving the case in Brazil as politicians are looking for ways to raise budget revenue without having to increase taxes. And so various gambling authorisation proposals in the Senate, Chamber of Deputies, Ministries of Sports and Tourism have sprung up and while they have gone through their ups and downs in committees and debates, it is clear that the political appetite is there and the question is no longer ‘if’, but ‘when’.”
Bakun described the current regulatory void as a ‘major obstacle that stops serious investment in the gambling sector’. “What additionally works against Brazil is its history of political scandals and bribery, often considered as a way to do business – something that international organisations that are strictly regulated or listed on stock exchange cannot conform with,” she said. “This lack of transparency doesn’t instil trust in the political process and adds to the uncertainty that’s never good for business or for long-term investment.”
Bakun also advised that with a wide scope of regulation proposed in Brazil through various bills and ministerial measures, there is a also a variety of vested interests and agendas placing pressure on legislators which often results in lobbying against one another. “Such divisions are never good for the political process,” she warned, “and the lack of consensus, in particular between those supporting regulation of all gaming verticals and the casino front, is currently the biggest threat to the regulatory progress in Brazil.”
SBC Americas analysis: Brazil is evidently a work in progress where gaming is concerned and looks set to remain that way for some considerable time. That means there will be much for delegates to talk about over a packed two-day agenda at BgC. The big challenge remains for stakeholders to emerge from that dialogue with a clearer sense of purpose and a defined set of objectives outlining exactly how gaming in Brazil should happen.