Betting, in any form, can be an addictive activity. Several countries imposed bans on betting to curb gambling addiction. The same is true for Vietnam. Gambling in Vietnam is unlawful. For many centuries, the country has made casinos inaccessible to its locals. Still, many Vietnamese residents engage in different forms of gambling.
The country has a number of luxurious casinos but the entrance to them is limited only to those who hold foreign passports.
The only form of legal betting in Vietnam is through the lottery. The lottery started in 1999 and is now popular across the country. There are a good number of vendors who sell tickets to the locals. The country has three main lotteries including Southern Lottery operating the Lottery Vung Tau, Ben Tre Lottery, and Lottery Lieu; Northern Lottery with the Quang Ninh Lottery; and the Central Vietnam Lottery with Quang Nam Lottery and Dak Lak Lottery.
Just recently, the National Assembly passed a bill that legalizes sports betting in Vietnam, under the supervision of the government. The details of the newly passed law are still unclear but it followed the March 2017 decree or Decree Number 6 that includes horse races, international football games, and greyhound races as legal forms of sports betting.
Vietnam implements strict gambling laws. Law enforcement is serious in arresting and apprehending violators. Individuals engaging in social gambling with minimal stakes can be charged with an administrative violation, making it a crime similar to political blogging or online distribution of religious materials. The Communist country has a special division for gambling violations. Those who violate will pay a fine and serve a non-custodial reform.
Article 248 of the Vietnam Penal Code contains the first level of crime for gambling. Individuals who win or lose money or any valuable item amounting between 2 million dong and 50 million dong through gambling will have to pay not less than 5 million dong and not more than 50 million dong. They also have to serve either prison time of three to 36 months or non-custodial reform of up to three years.
A non-custodial reform is similar to a parole or probation system. Those who receive this sentence should regularly report to the authorities. Change of address and employment must be immediately made known to the authorities. They cannot move out of their current district. Individuals who commit any crime while on non-custodial reform will receive a prison sentence. If caught gambling again while on administrative sanctions, individuals may be imprisoned.
If an individual is caught winning or losing more than 50 million dong in gambling, the penalties are graver as this is considered a more serious form of offense. In Article 248 of the Penal Code, the penalties for the said crime constitutes a minimum of three years and a maximum of seven years imprisonment. It should be noted that if an individual is noted to be a professional gambler or a repeat offender, the heavier sentence would apply even if that individual is caught gambling with less than 50 million dong. Aside from imprisonment, guilty individuals will also be sanctioned with a monetary fine amounting from 3 million to 30 million dong. Article 249 of the Penal Code contains the sections for operators of illegal gambling.
Individuals caught running illegal gambling dens are subject to more serious penalties. Those found guilty of running mafia gambling or using loan sharks to collect debt payments may face longer prison sentences ranging from five years to 17.5 years.
In 2017, the government issued Decree Number 3, allowing Vietnam locals to enter and play in the casino under certain conditions. Casinos that have a total investment amounting to at least US$2 billion can allow Vietnamese citizens to gamble. Gamblers should also have a regular monthly income of 10 million dong and must be at least 21 years old. Other requirements include the absence of criminal records and permission from family members.
To curb gambling addiction, locals are also required to pay an entrance fee of 1 million dong. An individual can avail of a monthly pass for 25 million dong. It is also important to note that a Vietnamese citizen can enjoy entrance into the casino for a period of only three years.
Decree Number 6 stipulates that betting on horse and greyhound races and international soccers is legal. Those interested in becoming an operator for horse racing and international football must have minimum investment capital of US$45 million and US$14 million for greyhound racing. Only one operator will be granted license for international football betting.
Gambling in Vietnam is a complex issue. It is laden with political concerns. Some politicians pursue the legalization of gambling while others want more severe penalties given to those who will violate the law.
The government is keen on keeping things in check, in terms of gambling. The Ministry of Finance issued regulations ensuring all the existing casinos in the land are running according to the law, all transactions are properly recorded, and all taxes are promptly paid. Known as Decree Number 3, casinos will have to document and provide information pertaining to all transactions and winnings. Existing casinos in Vietnam will also need to use sealable containers when transporting cash from vaults to gaming tables. No casino is allowed to exchange any money during play. All monetary exchanges should have electronic monitoring, which will be submitted regularly to the authorities.
Under Decree Number 3, businesses engaged in gambling can only operate within an integrated entertainment, services, and tourism zone. The regulation also includes the number of gaming machines a casino can have. A casino can have one gaming table and 10 gaming machines for every US$10 million in investment capital.
Despite the blanket ban on gambling in Vietnam, many citizens still engage in illegal betting through underground bookmakers and operators and international casinos. A study revealed that as much as US$13 billion was spent in the lottery and off-shore gambling from 2011 to 2015 alone.
Since the government runs the lottery, they can monitor sales and revenues. To make sure that the government takes to cut in gambling tax revenues and the country attracts more foreign investments, they decided to regulate the market. Despite relaxing several gambling laws, particularly sports betting, a lot of the citizens still patronize underground betting operators since the country does not have any licensed betting operators yet. The limited option for betting has left many citizens – both gamblers and operators – frustrated.
The government is yet to issue a license because many interested operators find it hard to comply with the requirements such as charter capital. Bidding procedures and betting restrictions are also problematic for the interested operators.
Based on the betting regulations set by the Vietnamese government, locals can only bet on FIFA organized international soccer games. Since these games are held only once a year, not many operators are keen in going through the tedious licensing procedure for a league match that is held annually or once every four years. Premier leagues like La Liga, English Premier League, and Serie A have longer tournaments but are not allowed by the government.
Owning a betting website in Vietnam is illegal. Those who want to bet on sports or casinos will not find any local online bookies unless they go underground. Those who want to do legal online betting can opt to sign up with international bookies that have the proper licenses and regulations from their home countries. Many of these foreign websites accept players from Vietnam. Some even support the local currency and even allow the players to use the Vietnamese language version of their website.
The Vietnam government does not have any jurisdiction over these legal international websites because they are properly licensed. Under international law, players cannot be held liable if they place online wagers. Still, some websites are monitored by the government. There may be instances that a few websites may be subjected to censoring. In the past, the government was successful in blocking as much as 180 gambling websites.
One should also be careful when dealing with individuals offering to set up an online account. Many of them work for the mafia and may get you in trouble. Setting up an online casino or betting account is easy as long as your requirements such as valid ID and proof of address are complete.