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Gambling in Vietnam: Foreign Investor Quick Read 2024

Gambling in Vietnam is illegal but that doesn’t stop a sizable amount of betting occurring. This tends to peak around major sporting events. In particular, the World Cup sees a huge number of underground gambling establishments pop up in soccer-mad Vietnam. Recognising that this might be a problem, or perhaps that Vietnam is missing out on millions of dollars worth of tax revenue, there have been recent moves to try to legalise the practice. 

With this in mind, whereas a number of foreign firms are already dipping their toes in the Vietnam market, there could be room for more in the not-too-distant future. In this light, this cheat sheet runs through how gambling works in Vietnam, who can gamble, and the key regulations governing gambling that is already permitted.

Who can gamble in Vietnam?

Broadly, gambling in Vietnam is illegal, however, there are some scenarios in which the practice is permitted. 

Foreigners are permitted to gamble at a handful of casinos scattered around the country. These venues, however, do not permit Vietnamese citizens to enter and a foreign passport must be shown at the door.

That said, during the COVID-19 pandemic these rules were relaxed at the Corona Casino in Phu Quoc. Local residents were permitted to gamble at the establishment as part of a pilot program for that ran for three years. It has since ended, however, there have been reports that the casino is still permitting locals to gamble, though this is unconfirmed.

Locals are also permitted to gamble through the local lotteries. These are administered by the Vietnam Lottery Company or Vietlott as it is more commonly known, which is a state-owned company under the direction of the Ministry of Finance–Lottery businesses in Vietnam must be entirely state-owned.

Casinos in Vietnam

Casinos have gained popularity in Vietnam, as they have in many other parts of Southeast Asia, to cater to gambling enthusiasts from other Asian nations that have similar gambling bans to Vietnam. There are, however, only very few in Vietnam and they are relatively small compared to what might be found in its regional neighbours like Macau or Singapore.

In Vietnam, casinos offer a fairly standard array of card games and slot machines and, given the aforementioned ban on locals gambling, cater almost exclusively to foreign visitors.

A new casino for Ha Long Bay

Most recently, in November of 2023, Vietnam’s Quang Ninh province, home to world-famous tourist attraction Ha Long Bay, announced plans to build a US$2.8 billion casino and resort for tourists. It was reported that plans had been submitted to the Ministry of Planning and Investment which had reached out to the Prime Minister to approve the project ‘in-principal’. No outcome has as yet been reported and as such neither has an investor been selected.

Opening a casino in Vietnam for foreign firms

Foreign firms can open casinos in Vietnam with no foreign ownership limits. However, they must apply for a license. The requirements of a license are fairly standard for casinos anywhere in the world and can be found in Decree 03/2017/ND-CP. Where they diverge, however, is that the size and the number of machines and tables are tied to foreign capital contributions. Specifically, for every US$10 million of capital contributed to a casino project in Vietnam, the casino can have just one gaming table and 10 electronic poker machines.

See also: How to Start a Business in Vietnam: Ultimate Guide 2024

Poker tournaments in Vietnam

Poker is often played in tournament format in Vietnam which allows it to circumvent laws restricting gambling in Vietnam.

That said, there have been some recent incidents in which poker tournaments have been shut down. A World Poker Tour event scheduled to be held in Hanoi was cancelled earlier this year amid reports organisers failed to acquire the necessary permits. It has also been reported that the local people’s committee had asked the Hanoi Department of Culture and Information and the police to investigate the event including if correct organising procedures were followed and whether or not it was facilitating illegal gambling. There has been no outcome reported as yet.

Sports betting in Vietnam

Attempts to legalise gambling in Vietnam have focused on a number of areas, but sports betting in particular has drawn a lot of attention. In fact, guidelines for a pilot program were legislated back in 2017, however, no business has as yet taken up the opportunity. This is in large part due to very restrictive regulations that limit the size of a bet to VND 1 million or about US$42 and to just a handful of sports. A minimum capital contribution of VND 1 trillion or US$42 million is also required.

This, of course, has not stopped Vietnamese people from gambling. In fact, Vietnam gambling sites NET88 and DEBET, which should be illegal, have reportedly inked deals with two English premier league clubs to sponsor their shirts next season. For some perspective, sports marketing agency, Sports Quake, says that front-of-shirt sponsorship in the Premier League can cost from US$50 to US$70 million for the most well-known teams and between US$5 and US$15 million for lower-tier teams. With this in mind, illegal sports betting looks to be very, very lucrative in Vietnam regardless of the broad sports betting ban.

Horse racing

There are currently no official horse races in Vietnam, however, the People’s Committee of Soc Son district on the outskirts of Hanoi (near the airport) put out a call earlier this year asking for opinions with respect to building a racetrack and entertainment complex in the area. The project would cover 125 hectares and cost US$420 million to complete. That said, even if approved, an actual working race track would still likely be years away.

Match-fixing in Vietnam

The Vietnamese Premier League was voted the third most corrupt league in the world back in 2016, and not much has been done to clean up Vietnamese soccer since–As recently as February, five players were charged for match-fixing.

It extends to less traditional sports as well. A total of 32 players and coaches were suspended from the Vietnam Championship Series of the video game League of Legends, earlier this year, after allegations of match-fixing surfaced. The allegations came to light back in March and saw the competition suspended while an investigation took place.

See also: Corruption in Vietnam: Cheat Sheet 2024

What’s next?

Though some steps have been taken toward legalising gambling in Vietnam these steps have been small and few and far between. In this light, it may be a while before legalised gambling for Vietnamese citizens broadly becomes a reality.

That said, firms operating in Southeast Asia or considering entering this potentially very lucrative market, can best keep up with changes to Vietnam’s gambling regulations by subscribing to the-shiv.

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