Online gambling keeps central region village from daytime jobs

TN News

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Many villagers in Thua Thien-Hue Province are leaving their rice paddies and fishing ponds to gamble their fortunes online.

Some have asked their families to front them money for computers. Some illiterate farmers asked the more experienced gamblers to help them set up online passwords and profiles.

The first online gambler in Dong Luu village, named N., said he goes online at 10 p.m. and signs on to a global gambling website where hundreds of millions of dollars are exchanged every day.

There are dozens of casinos, some of which allow people to bet up to 1,000 dollars on each hand.

"If you're new, choose the US$1-2 game. When you're good, you can join the big casinos to earn some. Around a hundred people here are doing this job," N. said.

Several of his neighbors in the village now leave their lights on until early morning.

The players claim that its easiest to win at 1 or 2 in the morning when Europeans return home from long work to play for fun.

They also tell each other to stay away from other Vietnamese players or Asian ones as they are "clever at the game."

"Each house has several people playing"¦ You play at home and close the door, so there's no way for the police to know," N. said.

The village remains fairly silent throughout the day as most people have to make up for lost sleep.

More people in the village began gambling online after several people reported winning big, building houses, buying cars and land.

A local man named L. quit his job selling prawns in the area after he heard that it was easy to make a living gambling.

The father of two said he couldn't read or write a single word but can "click the mouse skillfully."

He has purchased a power generator to protect against a momentary power failure. "If I was cut out due to a blackout, the bank would suppose that I gave up," he said.

Another villager, K., abandoned a profitable business delivering construction materials to become a full-time online gambler.

His mother, persuaded by him and her neighbors, has invested more than VND11 million to buy a good PC for him to start the new business.

"They've stopped drinking as well," the mother said. "They just stay home all night."

K. is doing rather well, she said. He brings in around US$50 every night, sometimes several hundred bucks.

But luck didn't smile on everyone.

After two months of online gambling, N. now owes his neighbors more than $1,000. He can remember times when he was up $200 but immediately lost it back to the bank before signing off.

"I burnt it all with the hope of winning," he said.

N. and his wife used to be seafood dealers all around the province. But after hearing a few local success stories, he left all the work to his wife.

A former accountant named H. also quit a job that earned him VND2 million ($102) a month so that he could spend more time online.

He left the village after losing more than VND40 million ($2.050) that he borrowed from his family and couldn't return.

"He told me that he borrowed money to invest in some prawn business," his mother said. "I didn't know he was gambling."

Cai Xuan Lang, a local police officer, said he also heard that some villagers bought cars with online gambling winnings but the information has not been verified.

Lang said this could pose a grave threat to the village. He said the police will start searching local houses which are connected to the Internet.

Gambling for money is illegal in Vietnam and casinos are only allowed to open to people holding foreign visas.

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