Las Vegas Casinos Eye Brazil

Many Las Vegas casino companies have put their international interests in Asia. But now, they’re also focusing on the budding Brazilian casino market. Caesars Entertainment and the Las Vegas Sands Corp are two of the companies that are highly interested in such a venture. “Our company, like all of the companies actively looking at Brazil […]

Many Las Vegas casino companies have put their international interests in Asia. But now, they’re also focusing on the budding Brazilian casino market.

Caesars Entertainment and the Las Vegas Sands Corp are two of the companies that are highly interested in such a venture.

“Our company, like all of the companies actively looking at Brazil right now, is going through an exercise in process,” said Jan Jones Blackhurst, Caesars VP of public policy and corporate responsibility. “But you’re looking at what could be significant markets.”

Where would Brazil Casinos be Built?

Brazil is a huge country with over 200 million people. But Blackhurst told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that Caesars is narrowing down their list of potential casino sites to 3-4 cities.

She said that the most-viable markets are Brasilia, Sao Paulo, Salvador da Bahia and Rio de Janeiro. The reason why is because these cities either have wealthy citizens and/or a large tourism industry.

“Personally, I like Brasilia because it’s the capital and many affluent people live there. It’s very safe,” Blackhurst explained.

Sands Corp Likes Brazil’s Large Population

Rob Goldstein, chief operating officer of Las Vegas Sands, is especially impressed with the size of the Brazilian casino market.

“We see what everybody else sees: It’s a large population base and a fascinating country,” said Goldstein. “Rio and especially Sao Paulo with its large population are compelling. If you look at comparable numbers for gaming in that region, it’s clearly a market you need to pay attention to.”

Even company chairman Sheldon Adelson took a trip to Brazil to scout out the market. And the 83-year-old came away impressed after the visit. He even told Rio de Janeiro Mayor Marcelo Crivella that he’s interested in as much as an $8 billion investment.

Brazil still has to Legalize Casino Gambling

The big roadblock to all of this is that Brazil doesn’t have legal casino gambling.

And Blackhurst noted that she’s surprised competitors are offering to invest billions because they “don’t know the tax rate and you don’t know the locations, you can say it, but (it may not be that amount).”

Operation Car Wash is Slowing Down Casino Legalization

Aside from the lack of gambling regulation, Brazil is also concerned about a corruption scandal dubbed “Operation Car Wash.”

This investigation is looking into executives with Petrobras, a state-controlled oil company, taking bribes in exchange for awarding construction contracts at inflated prices. And this scandal has made it tougher for casinos to speak with government officials.

Goldstein still believes that a deal can get done. And he points to places like Japan and Singapore as examples.

“What I’ve learned is that whether it’s Chicago, Illinois, or Japan or Singapore, it takes a champion (to lead legislative efforts),” he said. “It takes a leader, someone with a vision to get it to happen and it takes a unified approach to get it through.”

 

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