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Vietnamese gaming market set to grow

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The gambling market of Vietnam could be on the verge of a major expansion with the development of a legalized sports betting industry.

According to reports in the Vietnamese press, the national government is currently working on ways to implement a sports betting bill that was recently agreed by lawmakers, with a tentative target date of early next year.

While the legislation to establish a sports betting industry is still at an early stage, the Vietnamese government has in theory given the go ahead for betting in a range of areas including horse and greyhound racing and international football. This shift away from the nation’s traditional opposition to gambling may be motivated by a desire to open the Vietnamese economy to foreign money and to boost state revenues.

Currently, spending on gambling in the country is estimated to be increasing by double figures annually, and the arrival of sports betting in the country is likely to lead to significant investment in major urban hubs including Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang.

Big hit

One effect of the government’s increasingly liberal approach to gambling will be a decline in small-scale illegal gambling, with these operations likely to take a big hit. 

Although gambling has been popular in Vietnam for centuries, until the last few years, it was mainly prohibited, and the nation’s anti-gambling legislation has been considered some of the strictest in the world. Even small-stakes social gambling could incur criminal charges, which were handled by a dedicated branch of the Vietnamese police.

Casino gambling has been possible for foreign passport holders staying in a handful of luxury hotels, as the government has been keen to bring in foreign currency, but for ordinary Vietnamese, the only options were to cross the border to Cambodia or Laos or to take a chance with the flourishing underground casino market.

But the introduction of a lottery legalization law in 1999 signalled a softening of the Vietnamese establishment’s hard-line stance on gambling, and it seems that Vietnam is set to fully embrace the gambling industry in the years ahead.

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