Vietnam eases ban on sports betting
Casinos are feeling the heat from a pilot test on local sports betting, as the government is set to allow Vietnamese nationals to bet on international football games and horse and greyhound races starting March 31.
This follows a decree issued late last month by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, lifting a local ban on casino gambling. It is expected to pave the way for foreign and domestic investment in race and horse tracks, and other local sport betting activities.
Under Decree No.06/2017/ND-CP governing sports betting, only those 21 years old or older will be allowed to bet, and bookmakers will have to be at least 500 metres away from schools and public venues for children.
The minimum bet value will be VND10,000 ($0.45) and the daily maximum limit will be VND1 million ($45.45).
The decree only allows betting on international football games recognised by the governing body FIFA, and approved by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
According to the decree, operators of bookmaking businesses will have to meet strict capital requirements: VND1 trillion ($45.45 million) for horse racing and football and VND300 billion ($13.64 million) for greyhound racing. A bidding process will be held to select one football betting provider for a five-year trial phase.
Nguyen Dinh Chuc, deputy director of the Institute of Regional Sustainable Development, told VIR that this decree is a significant step forward in the development of the Vietnamese gaming industry, following the recent decree on casinos.
Chuc said the new decree could cut into the flow of Vietnamese nationals crossing the border to place bets in the overseas market.
Albert Climent, a gaming consultant with a background in European and Asian on-line gambling and a specialist in pre- and post-regulated markets, said, “I believe Vietnam will be the next Asian country to regulate online betting, so operators should start positioning themselves.”
In Vietnam so far, horse and dog race betting services have been allowed in two pilot projects, in Phu Tho and Vung Tau, but the horse track in Phu Tho was closed in 2011 after nearly 10 years of operation. Those courses were invested by Thien Ma Company and Sport Entertainment Services Company, respectively.
Le Tu, deputy general director of Sport and Entertainment Services Company – a member of VABIS Group, which has held an exclusive operation licence for racing in Vietnam for 20 years – told VIR, “The decree is newly issued, and our company is considering and discussing how to implement it.”
Oliver Massmann, general director of law firm Duane Morris Vietnam LLC, said, “As there is only one sports betting operator allowed from the effective date of March 31, and the bet is allowed only for international football matches, the regulation will, on the one hand, formalise sports betting. But on the other hand, it will create a monopoly and unfair competition.
“If [investors] fail to be selected, there is a high possibility that illegal football betting will continue to operate. It would be better if the government sets out very strict regulations instead of fixing only one entity to do international football betting.”
Massmann said recent moves by the Vietnamese government showed a willingness to open up a potential domestic gaming market to attract investors.
“But we should wait and see what happens in the next three to five years after the trial period, to see whether such activities will be further allowed,” he said.
The new decree on race betting is expected to lure additional foreign investment to Vietnam. Hanoi Tourist Corporation, for example, is seeking to build a $500 million horse racing track in the capital’s suburban district of Soc Son.
Other foreign investors have been lining up. South Korea’s G.O. Max I&D has long wanted to build a $570 million race course in the northern province of Vinh Phuc. Others include Golden Turf Club, with a $100 million project in the central province of Phu Yen, and Hong Kong’s Matrix Holdings, with a planned horse track in the central city of Danang.
By Ngoc Thu, VIR