Report: Vietnam waffling on allowing locals in casinos

vietnam-casino-locals-law-confusionVietnam’s new gambling law might not lift the ban on locals in casinos after all, according to a media report.

In June, the Lottery and Gambling Division of the Ministry of Finance (MoF) submitted its long-awaited draft of Vietnam’s revised gambling law, which reportedly included a recommendation on lifting the longstanding ban on local residents setting foot on the country’s casino gambling floors.

But on Monday, Thanh Nien News reported that a subsequent draft had reversed course, maintaining the restriction that limits casino access to foreign tourists and Vietnamese holding foreign passports.

The paper quoted unidentified senior MoF officials saying the Ministry was “continuing to study and gauge the social impacts” of allowing Vietnamese citizens to enter casinos. The MoF was reportedly keen to educate the government decision makers on the potential ramifications this could have on “organized crime, gambling addictions, money laundering and other illicit activities.”

For years, Vietnamese gamblers have been forced to travel outside their country in order to gamble in casinos. Most of the time, this involves day trips over the border into Cambodia, where dozens of small gaming halls await their mainstay Vietnamese customers.

The resulting outbound flow of revenue is hard to quantify, with estimates ranging from $250m to $800m per year. The desire to repatriate some or all of this revenue was reportedly a key motivator behind the government’s willingness to bend on the no-locals issue.

There’s also the issue of being able to protect Vietnamese gamblers from falling prey to loansharks and scammers that frequent border casinos. Vietnamese media routinely report on local residents who were held against their will – even murdered, in some cases – in Cambodia due to their inability to repay gambling loans.