RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — American Jewish billionaire Sheldon Adelson met with Brazilian President Michel Temer and several government officials to pitch an $8 billion (NIS 29 billion) casino project in Rio de Janeiro.
Adelson’s visit this week raises rumors of imminent legalization of gambling in Latin America’s largest nation, where it has been outlawed for the last 70 years.
The casino magnate and major donor to Jewish causes also met Israel’s new ambassador, Yossi Shelley, and Israel’s honorary consul in Rio, Osias Wurman, during a meeting led by Rio’s Mayor Marcelo Crivella at the city government headquarters.
“He is known to be the biggest individual sponsor of the Taglit Birthright project and showed interest in knowing how many youths from Rio and from across Brazil go to Israel on the project every year,” Wurman told JTA.
On Wednesday, O Globo newspaper reported that Adelson met the mayor of Brazil’s second-largest city to discuss tourism. The subterfuge is necessary because Brazil has yet to legalize casino gambling, reported the CalvinAyre.com news website devoted to on-line gambling.
Adelson has long spoken of Brazil, calling the country a “potentially very good opportunity,” although he expressed some reservations regarding the economy and called for infrastructure upgrades, including more 4- and 5-star hotels.
“Visionary, Adelson wants to be one of the first entrepreneurs to conquer the country’s gaming market and also bring his casino brand,” reported the Games Magazine website. “The approval of a consistent law could make Brazil the third best market for the group, after Las Vegas and Macau.”