Seventy years after being banned in Brazil, casinos are making their bets and returning to the negotiating table in Latin America’s largest country. Yesterday [May 09], one of the world’s gaming industry icons, American Sheldon Adelson, president of Las Vegas Sands, the largest casino company in the United States, met with Rio Mayor Marcelo Crivella. However, the multibillion-dollar entrepreneur, who will be in Brasilia with his team, is not the only one. Also in the city recently was James Murem, who heads the MGM Resorts group, famous for his ventures in Las Vegas.
The list of companies interested in taking advantage of casino activity in the country has been growing every month. Even one of Las Vegas’ best-known figures, former mayor Jan Laverty Jones, was in Brasilia, as she is now one of the top executives at the company that owns Caesars Palace. In recent months, the group owner of the Red Rock network, with spaces in California and Michigan, was also in Brazil.
But it’s not just Americans. Europeans from Portugal’s Estoril Sol and even those from Austrian state-run casinos in Vienna were in Brasilia presenting the casino and entertainment industry as a tool to boost the tourism industry in Brazil.
Investment in Resorts
The legalization of casinos, however, is a subject surrounded by controversy in Brazil. Many groups criticize the proposed legalization, arguing that gambling could lead to money laundering, the creation of criminal organizations and addiction. On the other hand, the government itself has already convinced itself that the legalization of casinos will help in the development of the economy. According to MP Elman Nascimento, the Chamber’s special committee president analyzing the subject, US$24 billion in investments is expected.
“Brazil is one of the only democratic countries where casinos aren’t allowed. These groups are interested in investing in the country, creating an integrated casino resort. There is a high willingness to invest. But it’s necessary to ensure that these investments take place in the country. In addition to the groups from the US and Europe, there are also companies from Argentina and Uruguay with an eye on the country”, Nascimento said.
In the meetings, businessman Sheldon Adelson said he intends to start an $8 billion project in Brazil. The American billionaire’s idea is to create a complex along the lines of the one in Macau, which now generates more than ten thousand direct jobs and brings together convention and shopping centers. According to a source, the tycoon has said in his meetings that to start the venture, the city needs to have a 4 to 5 star hotel infrastructure to absorb customers.
Yesterday, Mayor Marcelo Crivella met the businessman for a meeting at the City Palace in Botafogo. Before the meeting, Crivella said that the reason for the meeting was “to bring investments” to Rio, without mentioning the word casino.
“He’s one of the big investors in real estate. Let’s talk about tourism. He’s surely has one of the biggest American fortunes and a lot of interest in Rio. So he can help us with Porto Maravilha. I’m going to show him the infrastructure that was created, and who knows, maybe we can install hotels, food courts, cinemas. He is one of the great entrepreneurs in Las Vegas,” said Crivella.
Hotel Nacional in Focus
Adelson’s advisor declined to comment. According to another source, groups from abroad are already talking to hotels in Rio de Janeiro and looking for land. One of the talks at an early stage calls for the possibility of a casino in the former Hotel Nacional, in São Conrado (pictured at the top), owned by HN Construtora, and recently reopened under the management of the Spanish group Meliá.
“A pre-arrangement was made for the construction of a casino in the hotel, for a $50 million project”, said one of the sources who declined to be identified.
Hotel Nacional did not return a request for comments.
There are now two proposals to legalize casinos in Brazil: one in the House and another in the Senate. In the House, the substitutive report from the Commission on the Regulatory Framework for Games was already voted on and is on the table of the president of the House, Rodrigo Maia. In the Senate, the bill is wih the Constitution and Justice Commission. According to sources, the two projects will converge as one, as a way to speed up voting in Congress. The idea is that the text goes to plenary after the vote on Social Security reform.
It’s already certain that, by uniting the two proposals, the project will federalize the criminalization of all types of games, such as bingo and the animal game lottery. According to the House’s proposal, states with up to 15 million inhabitants may have a casino; places with between 15 and 25 million, two; and states with above 25 million, three. The Senate proposal mentions up to three establishments per state.
“It requires a uniform legislation, fraudulent exploitation of the game, without authorization, becomes a federal crime.” This brings security for the investor. For the project, the casino machines will be linked to the Federal Revenue system, which will have online monitoring”, said Nascimento. – Source (PT)
Between 1934 and 1946, there were 71 legal casinos in Brazil. Eventual owner of Cassino da Urca, Joaquim Rolla, won the casino in a card game 
Brazil has been described as the sleeping giant in several publications and in relation to its huge potential to turn into one of the world’s biggest regulated markets. Gambling has already been a big thing in the country. According to the Brazilian Legal Gaming Institute (Instituto de Jogo Legal – IJL), the approximate amount of US$6.4 billion is generated annually from illegal gambling services. What is more, the Jogo do Bicho market could be worth around $3.8 billion. In terms of stakes placed, the local market could be valued at around $17.6 billion, the IJL has noted in a report on Brazil’s gambling market.
As many other gaming options, brick-and-mortar casinos are also prohibited in Brazil. It has been estimated that around 200,000 country residents travel to neighboring Uruguay to gamble at local casinos.
Bearing all the above figures in mind and the fact that gambling is strictly prohibited in Brazil and only conducted illegally, the IJL has suggested that the country annually loses $2 billion in what could be contributed to coffers in gambling taxes.
With population of 208 million people, Brazil could be the world’s largest regulated gambling jurisdiction. – Source
Cassino da Urca
Opening in 1933, Rio’s Urca Cassino (today a design institute) was the place to be, until a presidential decree banned gambling in Brazil in 1946. At the height of its success, from 1939 – 41, it was considered to be the world’s best and most happening night club. It was while performing there that Carmen Miranda was noticed by an American show biz magnate, starting her international career.
Others to pass through the Cassino included the likes of Bing Crosby, Josephine Baker, Orson Welles, and Walt Disney.