Posted on: August 10, 2022, 11:12h. 

Last updated on: August 10, 2022, 11:53h.

Lawmakers in Vietnam see a future where the country can embrace, not shun, gambling. As the idea of expanding its casino market continues to lead legislative discussions, legal sports betting is making an appearance.

National Assembly House, Hanoi, Vietnam.
A view of the National Assembly House in Hanoi, Vietnam. An initiative to legalize sports betting in the country is once again rising to the surface among Assembly members. (Image: Archello)

A lawmaker in Vietnam’s National Assembly, Pham Van Hoa, believes the time has come for the country to consider legalized sports betting.  He believes it would help reduce black market activity.

This isn’t the first time Vietnam has opened the floor to a debate on the subject. It did so in 2018 through a pilot program that fizzled as quickly as it arrived. At the time, no operator showed interest.

Vietnam Overrun By Illegal Gambling

Hoa brought up the topic of legalized sports betting in a National Assembly meeting with To Lam, Vietnam’s minister of public security. He emphasized how widespread online gambling has become, and how the lack of regulations is impacting society.

As a result, he said, the only way to combat the problems is to legalize the activity. This will enable the creation of regulations to protect consumers, while also adding tax revenue to state coffers. In addition, Hoa feels this is the right opportunity to introduce online sports betting in a controlled environment.  

Hoa referenced the same order that would have allowed sports betting in 2018. Specifically, that order had in mind horse racing, greyhound racing, and soccer matches.

The fact that little progress has been made in more than four years shows what’s in store. However, Minister of Finance Ho Duc Phoc acknowledged that there exists a possibility that consideration may be in order, although any progress will be difficult.

Two years ago, Vietnam’s prime minister at the time (and now the country’s president), Nguyễn Xuân Phúc, signed off on a measure to allow a horse racetrack in Hanoi. It received a warm reception. However, the course still does not exist.

In addition, there are plans for similar projects in other provinces, including Phu Yen, Lam Dong and Vinh Phuc. However, like the Hanoi track, going from concept to product is proving to be a challenge.

Still, public sentiment is changing. As a result, it’s possible that a decree greenlighting sports betting now will open the floodgates and attract more attention.

SEA’s Changing Landscape

The economic environment in Southeast Asia (SEA) is changing, which could prove beneficial to Vietnam and other countries. For example, an initiative to introduce casinos to Thailand is gaining steam. Vietnam, a close geographical neighbor, could utilize this as a catalyst for its own growth.

International Monetary Fund data lists Thailand and Vietnam among the top four SEA countries in terms of gross domestic product (GDP). Thailand is in second place, and Vietnam is in fourth. Separating the two are the Philippines, and following Vietnam is Singapore, already home to a number of casinos.

The overall economy of SEA countries grew 6.7% from 2010 to 2018, but subsequently slowed because of COVID-19. However, that expansion was twice the global average of 3%. As such, there is still a lot of opportunity for short- and long-term economic growth.

SEA is beginning to change its attitude toward certain topics that were once forbidden. Gambling is the big one, with marijuana also becoming more acceptable. Thailand recently decriminalized cannabis as it looks to attract international tourism and perhaps Vietnam will be next.