Almost seventy years after gambling was deemed a criminal activity in Vietnam, lawmakers are considering legalizing the activity. On Tuesday, lawmakers met to discuss amendments of the Penal Code, with one topic being gambling. Gambling in Vietnam is not a legal luxury afforded to its citizens, even though there are dozens of foreigner-only casinos in the country. Many lawmakers sought to see gambling decriminalized and to begin offering legal gaming options in the country.
Pham Xuan Thuong, representing Thai Binh stated during the meeting that gambling is everywhere now, from the local festivals and holiday events to the pagodas and temples. Even though Vietnam seems to have a strong stance on gambling as a whole, the anti-gambling laws are not being enforced.
There have been several cases in which police have arrested those who are taking part in gambling activities but drop charges soon after. If an individual is prosecuted for gambling, they end up receiving a suspended sentence rather than jail time in many cases.
Binh stated that since the hugely popular and legal lottery is a form of gambling lawmakers should organize other gambling activities in a sensible and manageable way. Other lawmakers feel as though the country is losing more than they are gaining since the activity is considered illegal. Locals just go overseas to enjoy gambling rather than spending their money at home.
Lawmakers made their recommendations for allowing gambling after government officials were looking to increase the punishment for those who take part in gambling. Currently, there is a limit of $88 spent on wagering for individuals to face criminal charges for gambling. The new proposal would see an increase of this amount to $220.
This basically means only higher limit gamblers would be charged and face jail time with a longer term of one year, instead of the current three month sentence possible. With higher value bets of $220, players could face as much as three years in prison.
This is not the first time that decriminalization of the activity has been suggested. In 2014, the finance ministry made a suggestion to open casinos to residents of Vietnam who are of legal age instead of limiting the facilities to foreign visitors or those with dual nationality in Vietnam. However, this suggestion was only that and never took shape as a bill.