The rising popularity of sport fishing competitions in several southern Vietnamese provinces has given rise to concerns from local citizens and legal experts that such activities are a violation of the country’s strict gambling laws.
It wasn’t even 5:00 am by the time the parking area at a local restaurant in Can Duoc District, Long An Province was filled to the brim with cars and motorbikes.
As patrons entered the restaurant, a strange thing happened – instead of receiving a menu, they handed VND3.5million ($151) to a man working the door, pulled out a fishing pole, and got ready to spend a day casting their lines in the hopes of reeling in enough fish to take up the VND115 million ($4,950) grand prize.
|Motorbikes fill the parking lot at a Long An restaurant before the competition kicks off. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
|A man hands out leaflets for future competitions at the restaurant. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
Pay-to-play fishing competitions like this have become commonplace in many localities throughout southern Vietnam.
Typically, they are open to customers who frequent the restaurants that hold the competitions and can afford the registration fee.
All registrants need to do is confirm their participation via text message about one month in advance and show up with enough cash to pay the fee.
Participants with the heaviest combined hourly or daily catches are awarded cash prizes.
Several medals and certificates, along with seven cash prizes were awarded at the event in Can Duoc, including a grand prize of VND115 million ($4,950), a second place prize of VND40 million ($1,720), and a third place prize of VND20 million.
|A man announces the results as the competition draws to a close. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
|A trophy is awarded to successful fishermen at the fishing competition in Long An Province, southern Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
Le Trung Phat, director of law firm Luat Su Rieng, called the competition “organized gambling in disguise,” explaining that the fact that patrons paid money in the hope of earning a profit constitutes a form of gambling.
Similar events, such as cock fighting competitions, are under similar scrutiny in Long An as well as neighboring Ho Chi Minh City.