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Gambling has long been a taboo with the Communist Party in Vietnam and the licensing of Casinos has been very strictly controlled and to date are only open to foreigners, as are electronic gaming centres, which generally operate from 5 star hotels.
However, the Government recently announced regulations for Casinos allowing entry to local players meeting certain criteria but it seems that maybe only 3 casinos will be included in a pilot project.
Last week the National Assembly approved a draft amendment to the Law on Sports and Physical Exercise which could see Sports betting legalized by January 1st 2019. As often happens in Vietnam descriptive narrative is used to describe activities to make them fit more with the ideology and this case is no different. The Draft Law describes sports betting as “a form of award based entertainment, in which participants lay a bet to make a guess about the possible results in sports events……”
However, this type of business will be a conditional business sector which means restrictions for foreign investors and close control from the authorized agencies. Firms entering this sector will need to be qualified and need to apply and receive a certificate sating that they are qualified to conduct sports betting activities. These conditions will be spelt out in the implementing regulations and as always the devil will be in the detail. Neither have the list of approved sports been named.
It is however true that regardless of the legality there is significant betting that takes place illegally especially on the English Premier League and other National leagues including the V League. It is also true that a significant number of Vietnamese travel over the border to Cambodia to gamble in a host of casinos, taking much needed tax revenue away from Vietnam.
As Vietnam develops and more means are needed to improve tax revenues to reduce the fiscal deficit old taboos will for sure disappear.
Kenneth M Atkinson
 Vietnam Investment Review June 4th 2018