Foolish Vietnamese Betting Laws Keep Illegal Sportsbooks In Operation

As the authorities still can not provide a decent legal alternative, Vietnam ‘s online gamblers have lost a few more homegrown but highly illegal options.

Authorities in Hanoi and Quang Binh province reported on Tuesday the arrests of many people accused of being involved in two separate illicit online gambling operations. Before the authorities pounced, both of the two gambling rings allegedly treated wagers worth over VND1 t (US$ 43 m).

In February 2019, the Hanoi bust resulted in the arrest of 16 people, including the three alleged ringleaders, who each set up about VND300 m to set up a support operation for a variety of intermediary websites that directed gamblers to sites located outside the country.

Gamblers bought ‘points’ from third-party platforms, as with previous Vietnamese busts, that could be used as wagering currency. The ring formed branch offices in several cities and was allegedly a sufficiently large operation to require employees working out of high-end condo suites to work shifts to provide almost 4,000 gambling customers with round-the-clock support.

Reportedly, the Quang Binh sports betting and lottery service was much smaller in scale, having only been in service since July. However, as the authorities said it handled a similar amount of wagers as the more seasoned Hanoi activity, it appears to have catered to a more well-heeled client.

Both activities were substantially smaller than last month ‘s activity in Ho Chi Minh City, which reportedly managed VND10 t (US$ 431 m) in wagers since 2017 from about 1,000 accounts. This July alone, about VND1 t of that amount was wagered, indicating the activity was enjoying healthy growth.

Vietnam introduced a legal sports betting scheme in 2017, but sandbagged it by restricting play to a land-based terminal option in twenty districts that would only offer a fraction of the sports options available through illegal operators. Until now, the constraints have prevented any local or foreign operator from trying to work under this unattractive system.

In June, by adjusting the rules to add more sports, allowing people to place bets over the phone and pay through e-wallets while lifting the overall daily spending limit of VND1 m (US$ 43), the government issued its new pledge to remedy this gap. In another three years, we will check back to see how they are doing.

Vietnam has made strides in other areas of its legal gambling industry, including a proposal to allow Vietlott, a state-run lottery operator, to provide SMS text messaging for lottery sales. In June, on an SMS distribution platform beginning in the fourth quarter of 2020, Vietlott announced plans to partner with three telecom operators, Mobifone, Viettel and Vinaphone.

Thanks to the success of Mega 6/45, the country’s first Western-style numerical lottery product, Vietlott has experienced rapid growth since its launch in 2016. In 63 regions of the world, Vietlott currently boasts almost 5,000 retail points of sale.

Vietlott believes that not only will the SMS lottery give players more flexibility about how they make their choices, but it will also allow better control of the spending of individuals and help the company live up to its responsible gambling obligations. Now, if they can only work out a way to persuade the government to allow SMS sports betting to be included.