A few months ago, the Paraguayan gaming authority recognized that the possibility that the gaming activity in Brazil becomes legal could have a negative effect on tourism in the country because many Brazilians go to their casinos and spend millions at the tables of games and slot machines. According to the Uruguayan Institute of Sustainable Tourism, 70 percent of the players in the country's lounges are Brazilians. Uruguay is the country that draws most useful from the situation of Brazil regarding the gaming law that it is still not approved, either for reasons of the present political of the country or for not agreeing with the way in which the activity should be regulated.
However, the neighboring countries continue to collect the dollars that Brazilian tourists can not spend in their country, because it is illegal. Uruguayan businessmen know this situation and do not pass up the opportunity to make tourists feel like kings. At the Conrad Punta del Este hotel, 75 percent of the incomes is generated by the VIP players, and the Carrasco casino wants to implement the red carpet for the select group of players that make up the confraternity of 1,500 bettors who spend between US$ 20,000 and US$ 5 million during a weekend. Uruguayan businessmen only have to put a crown on the head of the Brazilian players and plead because the deputies and senators of Brazil continue to argue without approving the law and not allowing millions of dollars to go to their tables.
The managers of the Uruguayan casinos say that the influx of VIP players helps the country's gambling houses and resorts to be part of the biggest taxpayers of the country. They ensure that taking care of the details will maintain the return that casinos make to the country. Only the case of the Chilean company Enjoy in Uruguay, there are more than 1,000 jobs and moves a chain of 600 suppliers, and their officials say that casinos ensure the future of the region. Still, the contribution by the canon and taxes from gaming exceeds US$ 720 million, which represents the 1.3 percent of the PBI, added to the expense that the tourists leave in the country. The popularity of Uruguayan casinos among Brazilian and Argentinean players can be compared to the Monte Carlo of the 1950s, where the elite of European players gathered.
But not only does Uruguay benefit from Brazil's remaining lawless to legalize gambling. In 2012, the company Boldt, which has seven hotels in Argentina and two hotels in Uruguay, has designed a resort in Salto do Guairá, with a turnover of 360 million dollars, located only 1,500 meters from the border with Brazil. If we analyze that a company with the experience of Boldt invested this amount of money in a city where in 2012 the power line was not reliable, it is because being so close to Brazil is a big deal. Today, Salto do Guairá has about 17 malls, hotels and casinos, but we take into account that eight of every ten inhabitants of the region live in the countryside, it is not difficult to deduce that the investments are by the Brazilian players that flood the city and that are the target of the commercial promotions that appear on the web every week.
Also, in the locality of Pedro Juan Caballero, near the municipality of Ponta Porã, Mato Grosso do Sul, entrepreneurs point directly to the bettors that live beyond the border and that obviously do not have casinos to play. The city's Amambay casino publishes news in Portuguese rather than Spanish, offering prizes of up to R$ 200,000 in pre-sales and a free stay for players of Texas Holdem Poker tournaments. The hotel offers Brazilian guests in groups of more than four people, air transportation and stay by paying in advance of R$ 10,000. It is seen that the Paraguayan entrepreneurs know the preferences of Brazilian players because the casino of Pedro Juan Caballero has launched an online gambling site, along with the construction of more than 60 new apartments.
While all forecasts show that Brazil will be the largest sports betting market for the upcoming Worl Cup, Brazilian authorities let the punters make their moves on the fringes of the law or in neighboring countries, businessmen operating in Paraguay will take advantage and make their profit, something that will not happen with the Brazilian State’s coffers. Analysts say gaming will not be regulated this year as it is an election time, and because such a controversial topic is not likely to be on the agenda.
The group of Argentine, Uruguayan and Paraguayan entrepreneurs are not afraid of other companies establishing a casino next to the one they operate, nor that the regions where they have their businesses have geographic protection. They only care about their proximity to Brazil, because it is not a secret that casinos such as Posadas, Conrad Punta del Este and Iguaçu Casinos, base their operations on the packages they offer to Brazilian bettors. Entrepreneurs are aware that the bulk of the money is in their pockets behind the borders, and, until the activity is legalized in Brazil, the only ones that benefit are those that understand the potential of the players of the Brazilian territory.
Fabián Bataglia. Journalist specializing in the gambling industry; graduated in Social Communication at the CAECE University of Buenos Aires and professor of Journalism and Communication at this university. Specialist in information production and digital communication; currently works in Diario del Juego of Buenos Aires, Argentina.