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Football betting: billions of US dollars run overseas each year

Football betting has existed in social life in Vietnam for decades. Gamblers bet on football matches at both domestic and international tournaments.

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Legalizing international football betting in Vietnam will certainly limit illegal betting.

 

A few days after the European Football Championship 2020 (EURO 2020) was launched, the Vietnamese police agency busted a football betting ring that had lured transactions totaling VND1.5 trillion (over $65 million).

On June 13, more than 100 police officers divided into 19 groups to simultaneously storm 19 houses in Ho Chi Minh City. The police arrested a man named Bui Tuan Anh, 31 years old, and over 20 others in his ring. Searching the places, the police seized many weapons and devices used to organize online gambling. According to the police, Tuan Anh had recruited nearly 50 people to run a football betting ring. This gang set its network in Ho Chi Minh City and the southern provinces of Binh Duong and Dong Nai.

The gang leader - Tuan Anh - admitted running this online football betting since mid-2019. During EURO 2020, this gang lured transactions worth tens of billions of VND per day. The police said that this gang had carried out betting transactions amounting to more than VND1,500 billion (over $65 million).

This is one of many illegal football betting rings that have been detected by the police recently. Many of them had huge transaction value of tens of millions of USD. This shows that the reality and scale of football betting activities in Vietnam is very large and complex.

Football betting has existed in social life in Vietnam for decades. Gamblers bet on football matches at both domestic and international tournaments.

According to the UK-based Ladbrokes betting company, the illegal football betting market in Vietnam accounts 3-5% of GDP, equivalent to about $10 billion a year. Most of this huge amount of money is "flowing" abroad.

Outdated policies

Vietnam has issued regulations on betting business on horse racing, greyhound racing and international football since 2017, when Decree 06/ND-CP 2017 was issued. This decree is considered the basis for legal betting activities in the country.

However, the betting business in Vietnam has not attracted investors because of inadequate and impractical regulations.

Under Decree 06/2017, betting activities are allowed for only international football matches and tournaments announced and approved by the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA).

Therefore, national football championships, including world-famous tournaments like the English Premier League, German championship (Bundesliga), Spanish championship (La Liga) and Italian championship (Serie A) are not in the list of football events allowed for betting. Meanwhile, football tournaments organized by FIFA do not take place often, only every 2-4 years, and these tournaments are short, usually from 10-30 days.

Moreover, investment in football betting is high. According to regulations, businesses investing in betting business must have a minimum charter capital of VND1,000 billion (nearly $50 million). With the trial time of five years, investors are afraid to fail to recover investment capital. For these reasons, more than four years since Decree 06/2017 was promulgated, there is not a single investor in football betting business in Vietnam.

The birth of this Decree is also a long story. According to Mr. Nguyen Ngoc My, Vice Chairman of the Vietnam Association of Foreign Invested Enterprises (VAFIE), the Decree was drafted in 2006. In 2014, the National Assembly approved the policy on football betting, and in 2017 the Decree was issued. As the decree was compiled in a long period, right after its issuance, the decree became outdated.

At the same time, the Internet has been developing rapidly. For gamblers in Vietnam, just passing the firewall, they can bet easily and the authorities can't manage them. This is an opportunity for the development of illegal betting rings. After a ring is destroyed, many others appear.

Experts estimate that with around $10 billion poured in illegal football betting/year, the state budget can earn $2 billion if the tax rate is 20%. This amount is equivalent to tax revenue of the entire alcohol, beer, soft drink industry every year. At the same time, Vietnam can prevent the flow of capital running overseas.

Legalizing international football betting in Vietnam will certainly limit illegal betting.

Controversies

Realizing these shortcomings, in mid-2020 the Ministry of Finance consulted on amending and supplementing the Decree No 06/2017 with the hope of "untying" betting business in Vietnam.

The draft decree allows betting on football tournaments in European countries, which taking place continuously during the year. However, it has been one year since the Ministry of Finance collected comments on the revised decree but the new decree has not yet been issued.

Some said that this draft still has many shortcomings and controversial content. Without changes in management conception, it will also fail as the previous decree did.

Compared to many countries in the region, revenue from the entertainment market in Vietnam is very small, but this is an area with great growth potential.

Mr. Nguyen Mai, President of VAFIE, said that betting has a good and bad side. If it is not allowed, players will still bet illegally. If the authorities see the positive side of the betting business, such as the state can collect taxes, can manage players, and betting activities, legalizing international football betting should be permitted in Vietnam.

In fact, horse and greyhound racing betting services have helped boost the tourism industry.

According to VAFIE, the total revenue of the global betting market in 2019 was $231 billion. Despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the industry grew 14% in 2020.

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