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Vietnam lawmakers debate allowing residents to gamble at home

Sunday, April 20, 2014, 11:28 GMT+7

Vietnamese residents should be allowed to join international punters and foreign passport holders to gamble at casinos operating in the country, lawmakers said at a National Assembly Standing Committee meeting on Thursday.

>> NA committee visits southern casino to prepare for gambling decree

But these local gamblers must meet certain requirements to be able to enter the now foreigners-only casinos, legislators told the debate in Hanoi, which was aimed at soliciting feedback for a draft decree that oversees domestic casino operations.

Vietnam’s government has undertaken research and is planning a pilot project that allows local punters to gamble at a casino on Van Don Island in the northern province of Quang Ninh, nearly 190km east of Hanoi.

“But the problem is whether the new decree is able to control these local gamblers,” Minister of Finance Dinh Tien Dung questioned.

Dung said that the proposed legislation include a section that dictates local residents meet several requirements, such as having strong financial ability, before they can be allowed into domestic casinos.

Casino operators, meanwhile, must ensure that they are capable of controlling their gamblers, both foreign and local, he added.

With casinos operating in Vietnam closing doors to local punters, Vietnamese gamblers have turned to Hong Kong, Cambodia or Bangkok and the government “just cannot manage these activities,” said Nguyen Van Hien, chairman of the NA Committee for Legislation.

Hien urged that the draft decree should include a clause stipulating that Vietnamese are allowed to gamble at home when they can meet strict requirements.

The government earlier tried to obtain approval from the NA to issue the decree without that clause, saying it needed more time to carry out research on the issue prior to adding the item to the document centered merely on the overall management of the gaming business in Vietnam.

NA deputy chairman Uong Chu Luu also reiterated the reality that many Vietnamese people are gambling at casinos in Singapore, Cambodia or Macau. “So why don’t we allow these punters to gamble at home, under our management?” he asked.

Tong Thi Phong, another NA deputy chairperson, said allowing local gamblers to enter domestic casinos will help the government oversee them better.

Ksor Phuoc, chairman of the NA's Ethnic Council, acknowledged that the gaming business helps generate jobs and tax revenue, noting that must accompanied by security and social order.

The government has made a report on the impacts of casinos on these aspects, but Phuoc said this is not enough.

“We don’t need to be so hurried,” he said. “We should continue strictly controlling and managing casino operations before loosening the law for local gamblers.”

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