A Latin America Poker Tour (LAPT) poker tournament recently came to a close at the Costão do Santinho Resort & Spa in Florianópolis, Santa Catarina, Brazil. The event was a major success, which might come as a surprise to anyone familiar with Brazilian gambling laws.
Gambling in Brazil is in fact illegal, and the LAPT event in Florianópolis was nearly prevented from taking place. During the initial planning stages of the event, Santa Catarina’s Secretary of State for Public Security decided that poker tournaments violate the country’s 70-year-old gambling laws, and insisted that the event could not take place.
Soon after, the event’s organizers took matters into their own hands, and obtained an injunction from a Santa Catarina judge, Sônia Maria Schmitz, who believes poker to be a game of skill, and therefore exempt from Brazil’s outright ban on gambling. The judge’s ruling came just days before the tournament was to begin.
“Originally these poker tournaments were not considered legal in Brazil but judges have started to change their positions as poker has become more successful around the world,” said Daniel Sanson, a gaming consultant with BetConsult in Brazil.
This ruling is not the first. Earlier this year, a judge in Espirito Santo gave a green light that allowed a Brazilian poker room to offer tournaments. In fact, more and more private member clubs across the country are offering legal poker games, as the popularity of poker continues to grow.
Online poker sites in Brazil are also becoming more prominent. While the Brazilian government does not license internet gambling, major international poker websites like Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars have been targeting poker players in Brazil for many years. Interestingly, according to a Financial Action Task Force report on Brazil published earlier this month, it is not illegal for Brazilian gamblers to play at “foreign casinos that are operating on the Internet.”