This illegal gambling game is very popular in Brazil, despite the fact that it has been banned since the 1940s. The Jogo Do Bicho or animal game, has been preferred by the mafias of the game and is played in combination with the daily legal draws of the state lotteries. The mafias of the animal game are known as Contraventores (Bankers).

Origins of the game

The popular game was created by Joao Batista Viana Drummond, an English citizen of Brazilian origin. Initially it consisted of guessing the kind of animal that was hiding behind a curtain, a kind of publicity stunt, which quickly became very popular. Then the game became more relevant and the number of animals that were assigned to 25 different sets of numbers was expanded.

The popularity of the game is believed to be due to the flexibility of betting. There were no high or low limits for betting.

Corruption around gambling and legal problems led to gambling being outlawed in 1946. However, in most states in the country, gambling continued to grow.

During a series of police raids in Sao Paulo in 1966, authorities successfully suppressed this game, which went on to raise as much as $ 500 million and employ around 1% of Brazil’s workers. Although the police operations were resolved in private.

Where is gambling legal?

Paraiba is the only Brazilian state where Jogo do Bicho is legal. There you can bet without limits of quantity, since also the bets in the state lottery are unlimited, which can be very dangerous.

In contrast, in Rio de Janeiro it is illegal, but the game is tremendously popular. As in other 25 states in the country where gambling is also illegal. Brazilian legislation provides penalties for people who play the animal game. Despite being the largest lottery game in the world.

How is the game?

The game is based on mnemonic associations for which the numbers of the lottery draw are used in which 25 animals are randomly selected. That is, if the number 1 is chosen, it corresponds to Ostrich, the number 2 corresponds to Eagle and so on.

Each animal (out of a total of 25) has four numbers assigned from one to one hundred with which it is correct. For example, you can bet on one animal only or choose from the combined numbers that are assigned to the same animal.

Bankers are made up of managers, operators and distributors. Bets are made at the points of sale. In these “Pontos” the distributors collect and keep a record of all bets, which is then sent to the operator who is in charge of the draw.

There are many street vendors who are easily recognizable by their outfit, a patterned shirt, and sunglasses, who wait in their Pontos (small stools or wooden boxes) while smoking a cigarette.

During the draws, the telephones do not stop ringing, to the point that the telephone companies already have a name for it: “Bug hours”. The raffle is usually held at 2 pm at the Bicho headquarters and the result is quickly disclosed through scribbled notes, chalk on the walls or chalkboards, and by taxi.

Influence on Brazilian culture and sport

The impact of Jogo Do Bicho in Brazilian society has been very high. Whether they play it or not, number 24 is associated in Brazil with sports, politics and homosexuality.

The deer in this game is assigned the number 24, which in turn is associated with homosexuality. To the point that this number on professional player jerseys has caused more of a problem than it suggests. Therefore, male players avoid being assigned the number 24, because they are teased.

The manager of the Portuguese soccer team “Gentil Cardoso” once described the possibilities of his team against “Vasco da Gama“, saying that it was like trying to place a zebra in the Jogo Do Bicho (the zebra is not contemplated in the game).

However, Portuguesa won that match and since then the zebra symbol has been used to describe a sports defeat.

Another number that has meanings in sports and represents the rooster in the Jogo Do Bicho is 13. The mascot of the Paraiba “Treze Futebol Clube” soccer team is the rooster, due to the meaning of “Treze“.

Also the soccer team “Clube Atletico Mineiro” has the pet rooster, this because the fans of the club hoped to win the Copa Libertadores in 2013 and so it happened.

Influence of Jogo Do Bicho on politics

Brazilian politics has not escaped the influence of the game either. Many LGBT candidates in their election campaigns have used the number 24 to accentuate their association with the LGBT movement.

Straight politicians have even used it to convey their anti-LGBT political agenda as well or not. Although in the Brazilian Senate none of its 81 has wanted to use number 24 in their respective cabinet.

Despite being an illegal game even in almost all of Brazil, the game of animals is by far one of the most popular games of chance and is considered the largest lottery game in the world.


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