Vietnam to Legalize and Regulate Sports Betting

The Vietnamese National Assembly passed a bill last week to legalize sports betting in Vietnam. The vote passed with overwhelming support by a vote of 457-1, paving the way to legalize sports betting under government oversight.

Officials have not yet released details regarding how sports betting will work, but local media reports the government will oversee sports betting to “ensure transparency, objectivity and honesty” in addition to protecting the rights of everyone involved. According to reports, the law is slated to take effect on 1 January 2019.

The Vietnamese government will release additional details regarding types of bets permitted, sports that can be bet on and other regulations at a later date. The Nikkei Asian Review also reports the move is at least partially motivated by a desire to address serious outflows of money currently being spent by Vietnamese gamblers at foreign betting sites.

According to some estimates, the Vietnamese government misses out on upwards of $800 million per year in potential tax revenues due to gamblers having no option but to bet with foreign bookmakers.

With this law, the government could capture some of that money and put it to better uses rather than letting it slip away to foreign operators. The Vietnam Football Federation supports the law and says money raised by taxing legal sports betting would be good for the budget assist in developing local sports.

However, there is no indication yet that this new law will apply to online sports betting. If the government does not end up authorizing online betting, the results will fall far short of expectations. Even with Vietnam’s strict online gaming laws, local authorities routinely discover underground online gaming rings.

Last year, we reported on one underground sports betting website that was raided by authorities after it had already taken in some $13 million in wagers – and that was just one of many such instances. In its story covering the new gaming law, the Nikkei Asian Review noted that authorities broke up real-world and online gambling rings worth some $300 million in total last year alone.

It’s clear that Vietnamese gamblers have no qualms using the internet to place their wagers. Convincing them to give up that convenience in order to do it legally would be a hard sell.

Vietnam Slowly Relaxing Strict Anti-Gambling Laws

Until recently, Vietnam has been staunchly anti-gambling. The government still imposes potential fines and jail time on anyone involved in unauthorized gambling and actively censors gambling websites, but the government is slowly relaxing some of its strictest gambling laws.

Last year, the government issued a decree legalizing wagering on select football matches, horse races and dog races authorized by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. The decree established a minimum age of 21 for people to place wagers and set a daily limit of VND 1 million (about $44).

However, Nikkei Asian Review reports gamblers on the ground in Vietnam say they have been unable to take advantage of the 2017 decree due to a lack of legal betting agents in the country. Thus, money continues to flow to offshore sites – especially during major events such as the World Cup.

The government also passed a decree last year partially rescinding the ban on locals from visiting casinos. Under that decree, locals who earn at least VND 10 million per month and have no criminal record may visit casinos if they’re willing to pay an entry fee of VND 1 million per day or 25 million VND per month.

It seems the Vietnamese government is slowly coming to the conclusion that if strict laws aren’t enough to put an end to underground gambling, they might as well regulate and tax the activity. Not only would that be a boon for government coffers, but it would finally give gamblers a chance to do business with operators that are licensed and regulated.