One year after Vietnam legalized soccer betting, bookmakers remain reluctant to invest

By Tuan Hoang   May 22, 2018 | 06:15 pm PT
One year after Vietnam legalized soccer betting, bookmakers remain reluctant to invest
Bookmakers remain reluctant to invest after Vietnam has legalized soccer betting.
Strict capital requirements and restrictions on eligible soccer leagues are to blame. 

One year after Vietnam legalized sports betting, no soccer bookmaker has set up shop in the country. 

“Only a few companies have shown interest in operating a betting business in Vietnam, and none of them have actually submitted bidding documents,” an unnamed source from the Ministry of Finance told Thanh Nien (Young People) Newspaper. 

Lack of agreement between relevant ministries on how to organize the bidding is among the reasons for the delay, the source said. 

Operators of bookmaking businesses in Vietnam have to meet strict capital requirements of VND1 trillion ($44.2 million) for soccer. A bidding process is held to select one soccer betting provider for a five-year trial phase.

“Although considered reasonable, the capital requirement is still quite high for many enterprises,” economist Nguyen Tri Hieu told VnExpress International. “This can be a barrier for those who want to operate a betting business here.”

Another reason lies in limited betting options. Vietnam only allows betting on international soccer games recognized by the governing body FIFA and approved by the sports ministry. They include the World Cup, the Confederations Cup, Copa America, Champions League and Europa League. These are all short tournaments with limited number of matches, leaving a lot of ‘idle time’.

Meanwhile, the most popular leagues among Vietnamese, English Premier League (EPL), La Liga (Spanish League), German Bundesliga, Serie A (Italia) and Ligue 1 (France), are out.

If a bookmaker were to operate only FIFA recognized tournaments, they would suffer heavy losses, according to Hieu. Adding the five major European leagues, on the other hand, will make a big difference as they are active throughout the year and have weekly fixtures. 

Gambling is considered by Vietnam a “social evil” that needs curbing.  

Stories of locals breaking the long-running gambling ban, creating a lucrative illegal industry for online betting, are common. A number of high profile online operations have been busted in recent years.

But the government has showed signs of changing attitude last year when it legalized sports betting and said it would allow Vietnamese citizens aged over 21 with a monthly income of at least VND10 million ($445) to gamble at designated casinos. This seems to be a historic decision by the government as it would to open doors for foreign and domestic operators as well as local betting activities.

Online betting, however, remains out of question.

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