Vietnam still unsure about plan to legalize sports betting

By Anh Vu, Thanh Nien News

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More than five years after the legalization of sports betting was officially discussed for the first time, Vietnam's government is still struggling to finalize a draft decree aiming to regulate the business.
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has recently ordered the Ministry of Finance to continue consulting with related agencies in order to complete the draft and allow people to bet on horse and greyhound races, and football matches.
The order was made at a recent meeting, after many agencies expressed concerns about some of the rules being drafted, including how much one should be allowed to bet a day, a source told Thanh Nien.
Under the finance ministry's proposal, the maximum limit is set at VND1 million (US$46). 
In 2013, the government also suggested the same level when polling the opinion of the National Assembly's Standing Committee. Many lawmakers at that time said the limit was low.
Nguyen Van Hien, chairman of the parliamentary judicial committee, for instance, proposed increasing the limit five times, arguing that too much restriction would continue to drive many people towards illegal betting services.
Hien's recommendation was echoed by many economists. Ngo Tri Long said if people preferred illegal betting, the legalization would fail to achieve its objectives, which were to collect tax revenues for the state and end illegal gambling activities.
A sports official once told Thanh Nien that Vietnamese gamblers sent up to US$1.5 billion of bet money to foreign service providers every year.
In an interview with Thanh Nien, Nguyen Hoang Duong, an official with the finance ministry, said although the government and the National Assembly -- Vietnam's legislature -- all agreed on legalizing sports betting, "technical issues" will have to be considered and solved "cautiously and gradually."
Sports Minister Hoang Tuan Anh also said sports betting is a "sensitive" issue, so it is bound to face many difficulties.
He said his ministry and other related agencies are "determined" to make it legal in Vietnam, and that they are drafting related regulations "step by step."
However, many economists were impatient about the government's continued delay.
"Postpones and hesitation cannot go on. Policymakers need to see the real demand," Long said.
"We are totally capable of managing the activity, as long as regulations are clear."

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