Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro is trying to get some support from his evangelical followers over gambling expansion. The evangelicals strongly supported him during the 2018 elections, driving him towards a surprise victory.
Bolsonaro changes his opinion
Bolsonaro was seen as an anti-gambling crusader during his campaign trail. He called for family values and was frequently cited as the “Trump of the Tropics.” In the first year of office, he continued emphasizing the same. Some left-leaning groups and LGBTQ activities have criticized him heavily for standing against standardized academic tests for Brazilian high school students which contained questions about transgenders.
Some of his earliest supporters are also unhappy with the relatively soft stance on gambling. While Bolsonaro suggests that he is strongly opposed to gambling, he suggests that states should be free to decide if they want to allow gambling in their region. The US has also taken a similar stance on sports wagering. Though there is no federal regulation on gambling in the country, the states can decide if they want to allow sports wagering.
Why evangelicals matter?
Firstly, evangelicals are the strongest support group of the President and currently acquire 200 out of the 513 seats in the Congress. Known as the bancada evangelica, they are very critical of gambling. They are up against a multi-party group called Centrao which supports legalized gambling even though it doesn’t have a clear-cut ideological homogeneity. Interestingly, most members of Centrao are conservatives who support gambling expansion in the country.
Some political figures are also campaigning for gambling expansion, including the Mayor of Rio de Janeiro. The Municipal Urban Planning Office of the city has already created a plan that is designed to attract gaming companies in the city. They hope to do so in the waterfront region to restore that area and bring some added revenue to the city.
Brazil is an interesting market for many of the large gaming operators in the world. MGM China Holdings Ltd. is one such company. Another is Las Vegas Sands that wants to leverage the legalized gambling opportunity in the region to fill their coffers. Some other operators who are rumored to be planning an entry into the Brazilian markets are Hard Rock International, MGM Resorts and Caesars.
Some expect that even if Bolsonaro ends up signing a gambling expansion bill, he may enter a “foreigners only” clause that will keep locals away from gambling. He is also against slot machines, which are usually the biggest money spinners for casinos.