Vietnam's stupid wagering laws keep sportsbooks illegal in market

Vietnam's stupid wagering laws keep sportsbooks illegal in market

2020-09-25

Vietnam's online gamblers have lost even more homegrown yet extremely illegal alternatives as the authorities are still unable to have a proper legal alternative.

On Tuesday, authorities in Hanoi and Quang Binh province announced the arrests of several persons accused of participation in two different online gambling activities. Before the authorities pounced, one of the two gambling rings allegedly treated wagers worth more than VND1t (US$43m).

The Hanoi bust resulted in the arrest of 16 people, including the three alleged ringleaders, who each put up about VND300m in February 2019 to set up a support service for a range of conduit websites that directed gamblers to sites located outside the country.

As with past Vietnamese busts, gamblers bought 'points from third-party platforms which could be used as wagering currency. The ring developed branch offices in many cities and was allegedly a big enough enterprise to require high-end condo suites operating personnel to work shifts to provide round-the-clock service to nearly 4,000 gambling clients.

The service of Quang Binh sports betting and lotery was officially much smaller in scale, having only been in operation since July. But it seems to have catered to a more well-heeled customer as the authorities said it treated a comparable number of wagers to the more seasoned operation in Hanoi.

Both operations were considerably smaller than last month's busted activity in Ho Chi Minh city, which since 2017 allegedly managed VND10t (US$431m) in wagers from about 1,000 accounts. This July alone wagered about VND1t of that amount, indicating the project was enjoying healthy expansion.

Vietnam introduced a constitutional sports betting system in 2017, but sandbagged it by restricting play to a land-based terminal option in 20 districts that would provide just a fraction of the sports products accessible to unregulated operators. Until now, the constraints have prevented any local or international operator from attempting to work under this unattractive system.

The government released its new pledge in june to address this vacuum by adjusting the rules to add more sports, enabling individuals to put bets over the phone and pay through e-wallets while lifting VND1m (US$43) maximum daily spending limit. About another three years we'll come in to see how they're going.

Lotteries are still not going digital. Vietnam has made strides on other aspects of the legal gambling industry, including a proposal to allow Vietlott, a state-run lottery operator, to provide lottery sales through text messaging. In June, Vietlott revealed plans to partner in a SMS distribution platform beginning in the fourth quarter of 2020 with three telecom operators – Mobifone, Viettel and Vinaphone.

Vietlott has seen fast growth since its launch in 2016, thanks to the success of super 6/45, the country's first numerical lottery game in Western format. Vietlott currently boasts nearly 5,000 retail outlets in 63 regions of the country.

Vietlott hopes that the SMS lottery will not only provide players with more flexibility of how they choose their choices, but will also allow further control of consumer spending and help the business meet its responsible gambling obligations. Now if they can only find a way of persuading the government to encourage them to introduce SMS sports betting.