The age of mobile gambling is upon us, but it appears to be taking a step backwards in Brazil. Over the weekend, it was confirmed that the government of Brazil amended the law books to make it illegal to play online poker in public.
The news came as an oddity last week; one that many waved off as nothing more than a joke. Why would a country where professional players are flourishing, and current laws already consider poker to be a sport and a legitimate game of skill, suddenly decide that playing in a publicly accessible area is illegal?
No one is quite sure why the government, which has historically supported a regulatory system for online poker, would make such a drastic move. But facts are facts, and the fact is that Brazil lawmakers chose to alter the framework of misdemeanors to include public displays of internet poker.
Legislators in Brazil have been keen on the concept of iGaming regulation for some time now, but progress on the issue has been non-existent. In 2014, Senator Ciro Nogueira acknowledge favoritism for online poker regulation, professing its benefits, but at the same time declaring that it would take “many years” to get the job done.
Why the Sudden Change?
As is generally the case with perplexing legal matters, several major iGaming analysts have already began speculating what may have brought about new prohibition against playing in public. The most reasonable suggestion was that playing in public could proliferate underage gambling. Perhaps seeing adults play on their mobile devices will make children want to do the same?
Less likely postulations revolved around security risks, such as a player winning a lot of money, celebrating the fact and ending up a victim of robbery. It was even proposed by one media outlet (not seriously, we hope) that the government may fear riots breaking out if enough players have a bad run and go on tilt.
Regardless of the reasoning behind it, the punishment for pulling out your mobile device or tablet to play online poker in any place accessible by the public can be a harsh one. Brazil has chosen to invoke a fine that could range anywhere from $575 to $575,000 if convicted. If the charges happen to be combined with other misdemeanor infractions, the culrpit could spend as much as 3 months in prison for it.
Brazil Deems Poker Game of Skill; Progress at Standstill
Poker was declared a game of skill in 2012 when the Brazilian Conferederação Texas Hold’em (BCTH) pushed for new definitions. After hearing the plea, the Brazilian Ministry agreed, altering its website to categorize poker as a genuine sporting event.
“Poker is a competitive practice in which the participant requires intelligence, ability and intellectual and behavioral skills to succeed,” stated the Ministry.
It was that very move that gave Brazilian online poker players hope that iGaming would finally be regulated across the country, but obviously that hasn’t been the case, and won’t be for many years to come.
Surely Bruno Politano, who finished 8th in the 2014 WSOP Main Event ($947,077) after being the first Brazilian to ever make the November Nine, was among those hopefuls. Prior to his appearance at the Rio last year, he had already pulled in over $300,000 in online poker tournament cashes. In fact, Brazil has one of the fastest growing professional online poker communities in the world at the moment, largely thanks to Politano’s accomplishments.