BUSINESS

Vietnam sports betting bill advances; relaxation of locals’ casino access?

TAGs: quang ninh, sports betting, van don economic zone, Vietnam

vietnam-football-bettingLegal football betting in Vietnam is one step closer after the country’s National Assembly Standing Committee approved draft regulation on Wednesday that would allow local citizens to wager on international footie matches. At present, Vietnam allows its citizens to wager on dog and horse races, but sports wagers are off limits, as is access to any of the country’s licensed casino gaming facilities.

The Ministry of Finance said the legislation had multiple aims, not the least of which is giving the people what they want (although not expressed in so many words). Making football betting legal is also intended to boost tourism, reduce the scope of illegal activity and raise revenue for social welfare programs. The Foreign Ministry also suggested the legislation would help attract investment from abroad.

Initially, the legislation calls for the issuing of a single football wagering license to a state-owned firm, although Justice Committee chairman Nguyen Van Hien pointed out that this was contrary to the anti-monopoly provisions of the country’s Enterprise Law. Other ‘limited liaison’ firms will be given the opportunity to offer wagers on horse and dog racing, provided they’re prepared to invest a minimum of VND 1t (US $47.5m) and VND 300b ($14.2m) respectively in the businesses. But National Assembly vice chairman Uong Chu Luu noted that the government’s most recent annual revenue figures from legal horse and dog racing were underwhelming, suggesting that the legal availability of such wagering had failed to stem the tide of customers visiting international online sites, which called into question the attractiveness of such an enterprise for international firms.

The Ministry of Finance will ultimately decide which matches will be offered for wagering. National Defense and Security Committee chairman Nguyen Kim Khoa questioned why popular local forms of wagering such as buffalo fighting and cockfighting weren’t specifically mentioned in the draft legislation.

The draft legislation would establish minimum bets of VND 10k (about US 47¢) to a maximum daily wagering total of VND 1m ($47.50). These figures have been roundly criticized by a variety of public officials, including Hien, who said the minimum was “only enough for a bunch of vegetables,” while the maximum was insufficient to deter those with a serious “thirst” for wagering, who will “continue to bet with illegal betting rings abroad.” Hien suggested a more appropriate range would be between VND 50k ($2.37) and VND 5m ($237).

RESIDENTS OFFERED HOPE OF ONE DAY ENTERING CASINOS
The Wall Street Journal’s Nguyen Pham Muoi reported that the government was also considering a pilot project that would allow Vietnamese residents to patronize proposed casinos in the Van Don Economic Zone in Quang Ninh province east of Hanoi. Under the proposal, so long as residents met certain income requirements and had blemish-free legal records, neither they nor casinos in the Van Don zone would be subject to the new fines the government announced earlier this month.

Should the pilot project prove successful, a national rollout might help staunch the flow of Vietnamese gamblers across the border into Cambodia, where they are welcomed with open arms by a multitude of small-scale casinos (and some gangsters). However, as no actual resort-casinos are yet operational in Van Don, this is perhaps a discussion for a later day.

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