Betting in Vietnam

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Following the Second Indochina War of 1959-1975, Vietnam emerged as an independent nation under communist rule. There was much rebuilding to do, and the nation put the entirety of its efforts into economic development, leaving all forms of gambling as an illegal sideline, tolerated but never officially sanctioned by the state.

By 1999, the Vietnam had become one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, and a decision was taken to introduce a national lottery as a revenue source for state programs. The government had no experience in such an undertaking, so it contracted with a Canadian company, Pacific Lottery Corporation PLC (formerly Applied Gaming Solutions Inc. of Alberta, founded in 1995) to set up an lottery system in Hanoi.

So successful was the new venture that by 2006, Pacific Lottery was invited to create a second electronic lottery in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), the country’s most populated and economically vibrant city. It was modeled after 6/49 & Powerball lotteries. As part of the contract, Pacific Lottery was also granted the right to establish and operate sports betting in Vietnam, pending the formalization of ordinances for its regulation.

Within two years, lottery terminals began springing up all over the country. A mobile lottery platform and online access were also introduced. So pleased were the Vietnamese authorities that they extended Pacific Lottery’s exclusive contract by another ten years till 2018. It was about the same time that officials began considering the possibility of further liberalization of gambling activities.

The country had already been experimenting with casinos since 2003 by allowing a select number of upper-scale hotels to offer electronic slots and table games to foreign passport holders. In January 2008, the ministries of Finance, Planning and Investment began drafting legal documents to allow gambling providers to set up shop in Vietnam.

Today, there are six major hotel-casinos in Vietnam open to foreigners only—one each in Hai Phong (Do Son), Da Nang, Ha Long, Lao Cai and Loi Lai. The Lao Cai International Casino has the most slot games with 200 machines installed and the Do Son Casino offers the most live dealer action with 17 tables for poker, roulette, blackjack and baccarat.

In 2010, the Crown International Club opened in Da Nang with 535 rooms, 100 slot games and eight gaming tables. Although plans initiated in 2009 for a $4 billion casino-resort complex on Phu Quoc Island have been put on hold, an American company is reportedly on course to open a Las Vegas-style casino on Ho Tram Strip in 2013—the MGM Grand Ho Tram—as part of a $4.2 billion development near Ho Chi Minh City.

Moving more slowly than legalisation of casinos are moves to license sports betting shops. Vietnamese lawmakers tried passing regulations late in 2006, but the motion failed and was put on hold. Currently, wagering with bookmakers is still illegal in Vietnam.

As a result, residents have turned to the Internet to assuage their desire to bet on football and other sports. Currently, some 467 sports betting sites accept play from Viet Nam, including ten that offer support in the Vietnamese language. Among the latter are three sites situated in Costa Rica—Bet Eagle, VietSport and Bet Any Sport—plus three others within the Cagayan Economic Zone and Free Port of the Philippines.

Although raids on illegal gambling operations are common in Vietnam, no steps have been taken to stop private citizens from betting over the Internet from their homes. As Tran Viet Trung, deputy head of the Anti-Social Vices Department, told the BBC: “The Vietnamese have been gambling for generations. What we really need to worry about is the scale of gambling, as well as the sources of finance that people use.”