Understand why influencers who promote online casinos are in Congress’s sights

The Financial Pyramids CPI suggested measures to hold internet personalities accountable; gambling is prohibited in Brazil

Advertising for gambling and betting houses is in the sights of the National Congress, and the case raises discussions about the participation and responsibility of digital influencers in advertising online casinos. Last week, the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry (CPI) on Financial Pyramids was finalized with the suggestion of four bills to regulate the sector. Among them there is a proposal that includes internet personalities who promote online casinos.

Physical casinos are prohibited in Brazil, but, as the companies’ headquarters are in other countries, this makes it possible for these sites to operate in the country. All players need to do is create an account on one of these pages and declare that they are of legal age to have access to games such as slots, roulette, blackjack and poker.

To start betting, applications generally require players to deposit an amount of money. Users then start to win in the first few rounds, but then it becomes more difficult to maintain the winning streak.

“A friend gave me a link, I went in, put in R$30 and won R$150. Then I started playing and losing, and as you lose, it generates a certain amount of despair, because you want to recover what you lost. It became a snowball. There was a day when I lost R$600”, says graphic designer Josevan Barbosa de Souza. “It’s a game that works a lot with psychology. It gives you a momentary gain, but when you put in more money, it starts to take away what you have”, he adds.

Marcelo Mattoso Ferreira, a lawyer specializing in games and eSports, states that online casinos are prohibited by law, as they constitute a criminal offense (art. 50 of decree-law 3/10/41). Furthermore, influencers can indeed be held responsible for promoting illegal games.

He also reiterates that casino games are different from sports betting, which is called fixed odds. These are already regulated by law 13,756/18, which was recently amended by a provisional measure from the federal government, with the imposition of tax payments on company profits.

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“Each country has an understanding, whether about the games themselves or the form of advertising carried out by influencers. In Brazil, advertising and propaganda about online casinos of any nature (conventional channels or influencers) is not permitted, as this is an illicit activity”, states Ferreira.

“Sports betting is authorized by Brazilian legislation, but we still lack regulation by the Ministry of Finance. Currently, betting sites operating in the Brazilian market are based abroad, due to the lack of regulation, but the idea is that the scenario will change in the coming months”, he states.

This makes the context of sports betting advertising also nebulous. “As a result, there are those who say that advertising for this type of activity is legal, if done within legal limits and in accordance with the guidelines of Conar [National Council for Advertising Self-Regulation]”, he emphasizes.

Conar currently discusses the topic through a working group that provides self-regulation rules for sports betting advertising. The expectation is that regulation will ensure that sports betting marketing and advertising actions are responsible and ethical, based on sector self-regulation measures used in other countries. The group was set up in June this year, and there is no forecast of when the proposal will be presented to the Ministry of Finance.

Stricter rules for influencers
In addition to tightening the crackdown on gambling, one of the four bills proposed by the Cryptocurrency CPI suggests stricter rules regarding the advertising of online games by digital influencers. In this case, personalities with more than 20 thousand followers on social media must establish contracts that make the relationship between the contractor and the contractor more transparent.

According to the commission’s rapporteur, deputy Ricardo Silva (PSD-SP), throughout the collegiate’s work it was found that many criminals who organized financial pyramids used the hiring of digital influencers to attract victims.

“As we advance our investigations into the type of relationship maintained between influencers and their contractors, we observe that it is often marked by opacity. This makes it difficult to determine the possible responsibility of celebrities who convince their followers to participate in a financial scam”, stated the parliamentarian.

The topic is also discussed in the Senate, in the Sports Committee. Among the bills ready to be voted on in the committee is a suggestion, authored by senator Eduardo Girão (Novo-CE), which provides for the prohibition of the participation of people considered celebrities or with power of influence in betting advertising. The proposal’s rapporteur, senator Sérgio Petecão (PSD-AC), recommends its approval.

For Girão, “the virtual environment has become, ironically, a kind of lawless land, where not only harmful sports betting thrives, but also a series of illegal games and other fraudulent activities”.

According to the parliamentarian, the expansion of gambling addiction, enhanced by internet betting, is associated with the practice of crimes such as money laundering, tax evasion and revenue evasion.

Mental damage
There is the possibility of a gambler gambling recreationally; however, the internet has made addiction easier by making gambling more accessible. This is what neuropsychologist Juliana Gebrim explains. “The internet offers a wide variety of online games, increasing the appeal and temptation for players. Social media and digital influencers also play an important role in promoting online gaming, which can negatively influence followers, especially younger and vulnerable ones,” she says.

She further explains that the principle of addiction is the same for all classifications of addiction: people may start gambling for fun, out of curiosity, or even with the intention of making money. With addiction installed, the gambling-addicted brain undergoes neurochemical and structural changes that can have significant consequences on the individual’s mental health and cognitive functioning.

“Excessive activation of the brain’s reward system leads to an incessant search for pleasure and reward, leading to changes in brain structure and function. This can result in difficulty controlling impulses, making rational decisions, and dealing with negative emotions. Furthermore, gambling addiction can lead to financial problems, damaged relationships, social isolation, anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation,” says Gebrim.

In the same vein, psychologist Paulo Gomes states that there is a strong relationship between drug addiction and gambling addiction. “The individual becomes addicted, as games activate the reward sectors, such as the limbic system, whose neurons have numerous receptors for the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is a molecule responsible for pleasure”, he explains.

For neuropsychologist Roselene Espírito Santo Wagner, the legislative suggestions under discussion touch on complex problems, with the need for broad debate.

“I see every attempt to tackle what causes addiction as implementing ‘harm reduction’. I observe that prevention has always been more effective than correcting an already existing problem. Through basic education, mainly financial education and the development of an emotional intelligence curriculum, it would be more effective to, in the long term, educate children to [become] emotionally and psychologically healthier young people and adults. This would directly reflect on the construction of a more balanced culture. With more physical and mental health,” she says.

Source: R7