A proposed national steering committee is expected to help Vietnam build clearer prize-winning entertainment rules and set up closer connections between government authorities and investors
in regards to horse and greyhound racing, as well as more efficiently explore billions of US dollars entering the lucrative industry.
Prize-winning entertainment rules in Vietnam were loosened in 2017 to allow more forms of accepted betting, Photo: Le Toan
Nguyen Ngoc My, general director of Vabis Group – the first to invest in greyhound and horse racing in Vietnam – told VIR last week that it is essential to set up such a committee. “The policies relating to sports betting must be reviewed and arranged towards a synchronised system which can create an easier approach for investors,” My said.
“We believe a national steering committee would be led by deputy prime ministers and representatives from relevant ministries would be assigned to join. In addition, we should invite foreign and local experts for specialised consultancy.”
He added that the committee would also help solve where the responsibility of local authorities lies, with some in this regard having been transferred among different bodies in the past, causing interested investors difficulties in getting answers.
Licensing and administration procedures for investors in Vietnam are long, especially in this sector, and Vabis’ own greyhound race track in the southern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau is an example. My took three and a half years to complete procedures to switch the racecourse’s licence from a pilot model into official operation.
Responding to the committee proposal, KP Singh, CEO of Vietnam Sports Platform, which proposed the first-ever velodrome in the country, told VIR that approval would be welcome, demonstrating that Vietnamese authorities are seriously considering expanding the gaming industry. He said that it would be important for a fast-growing market to integrate with global business and would go some way towards stopping millions of US dollars from leaving the country.
“There are several world-class bookmakers Vietnam can co-operate with to benefit from this dynamic and lucrative business. Vietnam can set up a regulatory committee to regulate the betting business and generate revenue. I am sure it will also benefit Vietnam in developing tourism, which has been heavily affected by the on-going pandemic,” Singh said.
According to My of Vabis, he is establishing a branch under the Vietnam Association of Foreign-Invested Enterprises (VAFIE) of investors who deal in prize-winning electronic games, casinos, and sports betting. A taskforce of this branch will submit all proposals to the government. Next month, Vabis and the VAFIE will invite over 60 related companies to become members of the branch and contribute their views for the government’s policies in the industry.
The proposal from Vabis comes as sports betting, including gambling in casinos and placing bets on sports from football to horse racing, is now a billion-dollar business that Vietnam should capitalise on.
According to casino.org, Vietnam has around 40 casinos currently in operation despite the COVID-19 pandemic hampering the industry across the globe. The Corona Casino on the offshore southern island of Phu Quoc has the most slot machines and card games, followed by The Grand Ho Tram Strip Resort in Ba Ria-Vung Tau. In 2019, the total revenue from the sector was VND19 trillion ($286 million), contributing VND4.9 trillion ($213 million) to the state budget.
The revenue of the business of prize-winning electronic games for non-nationals reached VND13 trillion ($565 million), up 22.8 per cent compared to the figure of 2017 and nearly doubling the figure of 2013. In addition, a number of projects had their investment planning approved and are now under construction.
According to Do Van Su, deputy director of the Ministry of Planning and Investment’s Foreign Investment Agency, the business’ development potential is massive. “If the country can exploit this potential, the sector could contribute billions of US dollars to the state each year, while rolling back illegal betting activities, and reducing the money the country loses out on when Vietnamese people visit casinos abroad,” Su said.
Responding to why there has been limited development of the sports betting sector in Vietnam, VAFIE chairman Nguyen Mai said that along with the lack of connection between enterprises, the overlap among laws is the main barrier, causing a long queue of projects waiting to be licensed or start operation. In addition, according to Mai, the National Assembly has passed the amended Law on Investment, which may positively affect the potential for sports betting in the country.
Casino industry expert Ha Ton Vinh told VIR that, along with establishing a taskforce in collaboration with reforming policies, another important proposal is to increase technology application to support management as well as diversify payment methods, including e-wallets, to lure in players who wish to easily spend their money on this type of entertainment.
Michael Efron - Chairman and CEO, Vietnam Sport Player
Our company has a lot of experience in horse racing and sports betting in Australia. With these experiences, we have worked with many large horse-racing companies and clubs there. We also have experience in supporting the construction of horse-racing courses or horse-racing clubs in many countries around the world such as Singapore, the Philippines, the United States, and Australia, giving advice to the government in building the legal system and completing the legal basis in this sector.
In Australia, we created a non-governmental committee, which divided into three areas of sports, horse racing, and casinos. This non-governmental committee will make recommendations and suggestions to the government to build a legal system for three separate fields in the most transparent and effective way.
We are also very concerned about social responsibility. Profits from betting activities will be partly contributed, even 50-80 per cent of the profits used for society. We propose to include the content of social responsibility of companies operating in the field of betting in the legal documents. We also recommend that the government incorporate taxes related to gambling into the charities, so the profits from these betting activities can contribute back to the community.
Vu Van Thanh - Director of Department of Hotels, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism
I think that entertainment services play an important role in promoting the tourism industry to develop, attract, and increase the number of international visitors to Vietnam, and attract domestic tourists as well. In 2019, the number of international visitors to Vietnam reached 18 million, and tourists from Asian countries accounted for 79.9 per cent, of which visitors from north-eastern countries and territories such as South Korea, China, Japan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan often account for a very high proportion.
This is a group of tourists who are interested in gambling and are potential customers of prize-winning entertainment activities.
Vietnam has a lot of tourism resources but in order to develop it, we need products. I believe that if the award-winning entertainment industry is well managed, and businesses invest and operate well, it will become one of the more attractive tourism products for the nation.
I hope policymakers will raise their voice so Vietnam will soon develop supporting services for the tourism industry such as more entertainment and prizes, meeting the entertainment needs of the people and creating more jobs in the country.
Nguyen Minh Tien - Deputy director of Department of Banking and Finance, Ministry of Finance
The government has issued a number of documents directing the orientation of developing tourism into a key industry. Vietnam has also issued decrees and other legal documents to guide implementation of business conditions for prize-winning electronic games, casino and betting activities, horse racing, dog racing, and international football businesses.
In order to be approved by the prime minister for investment policies, such activities must conform to the socio-economic development guidelines of ministries, provinces, and cities to nurture and train racing horses and greyhounds.
According to current regulations, the minimum charter capital for the horse racing betting business is VND1 trillion ($43.47 million) and for dog racing it is VND300 billion ($13 million). Businesses will have to complete the racecourse facilities, technical systems, technology, software, location to place bets, rules, and so on before the Ministry of Finance and other relevant ministries grant business registration certificates. VIR
If Vietnam legalises sports betting, billions of dollars could be recouped for the country and help boost tourism post-COVID-19.