Vietnam to maintain the laws

The expected approval of regulations that allow locals to gamble may not see the green light.

Vietnam.- After several official rumours that suggested a total legalisation of casinos in Vietnam, the permission for locals to participate in the business has been rejected. According to the Ministry of Finance, locals should not be allowed to enter Vietnam’s casinos.

The change of the laws appeared really near during the last months, when the leading party considered that Vietnamese residents could be included in the casino industry. Furthermore, three years ago, the Communist Party’s decision-making Politburo approved locals who meet strict criteria to play in a casino to be built in the Van Don Economic Zone in Quang Ninh Province on the border with China. Nevertheless, the 90 million population country was not able to go further with the gaming incentive scheme.

“We are continuing to study and gauge the social impacts of letting Vietnamese punters into casinos. We want to report to the higher-ups about the ramifications this could have such as organized crime, gambling addictions, money laundering and other illicit activities,” announced yesterday a senior official at the Finance Ministry.

The prohibition in Vietnam has been boosting residents to bet on Cambodian, Macau’s and Hong Kong’s casinos. Many cases of people selling off their property or even being kidnapped for ransom have been reported due to debt accrued in foreign ventures. As opponents affirm, these may be further problems.

Vietnamese Ministry of Finance is in favour of the ban, as it considers gambling causes enormous issues in society, including addiction, debt, prostitution and crime. “What often goes unreported is the link between casinos and organized crime. Look no further than the casino in Cambodia: this place has been laundering Southeast Asian drug money for nearly two decades,” described Zach Abuza, a Washington-based Southeast Asia expert.

On the other hand, casino supporters explain that gambling has not ended with the prohibition. Augustine Ha Ton Vinh, an academic who has researched Vietnam’s gaming industry, reported that the country is losing as much as US$800 million a year in tax revenue from Vietnamese punters who cross the border to Cambodia.