The National Assembly Standing Committee has approved of a proposal regarding the Government’s issuance of a decree regulating horse and dog racing and international football betting that looks to formally legalise the business.

According to a draft decree proposed by the Finance Ministry at the Committee’s ongoing session on August 14, those who participate in these activities must be at least 18 years old and the amount of betting can only range from 10,000-1 million VND per day (0.50-50 USD).

The draft decree applies to all individuals and organisations, domestically and internationally, who get involved in these types of gambling within the country.

Particularly for football betting, the draft decree suggests allowing only one State-owned company to pilot football betting and this company must have at least a starting capital of 500 billion VND (24 million USD).

Finance Minister Dinh Tien Dung said a decree on regulating these activities was necessary at this time due to a rising demand by people who have increased access to information related to betting from abroad, such as betting through websites of companies located outside the country.

Since 1998, Vietnam has allowed four companies to hold horse and dog racing but it is only limited to small-scale betting, according to the Finance Ministry's report.

However, Dung said the country lacked a legal framework to regulate these activities, considering 135 countries and territories worldwide had already legalised them.

According to statistics from the Public Security Ministry, more than 1,250 cases of illegal betting were reported between 2000 and 2009 and the amount of betting was up to 1 million USD.

Phung Quoc Hien, Chairman of the NA Financial and Budgetary Affairs Committee, said the NA agreed on the need to issue a decree, which could help reducing the illegal activities and contribute to the state budget.

However, Truong Thi Mai, Chairwoman of the NA Social Affairs Committee, said the draft decree did not touch on the social effects that these betting activities could have on society.

In addition, limiting the amount of betting from 10,000-1 million VND would not limit the participation of low-income earners.

Ksor Phuoc, Chairman of the NA Committee on Ethnic Affairs, said the Government must be careful in legalising these activities, which can make it easier for money launders.

On the same note, Nguyen Van Hien, Chairman of the NA Committee on Legal Affairs, said the range of betting was too low, which wouldn't limit these activities to an exclusive high-income group of people.

"Probably no one would want to bet at the level of 10,000 VND; with which you can't buy a packet of vegetables nowadays," Hien said. "If we want to do it right, then we need to put it at a realistic level, such as from 50,000-5 million VND."

According to the Finance Ministry, the decree if passed could attract investment and create new jobs but it did not clarify to what extent.

The ministry also estimates that in 2010, horse racing businesses brought 21.6 billion VND; and dog racing activities contributed 2.3 billion VND to the state budget in 2012.

The NA Standing Committee also agreed that this would be limited to international football betting, which did not involve any stakeholders or players in the country to prevent betting activities from interfering with match results.

On the draft decree on regulating casino businesses, members of the NA Standing Committee agreed that only foreigners and overseas Vietnamese would be allowed to enter a casino.

However, Hien also noted that many Vietnamese already flocked to casinos in Singapore and Cambodia to play, causing a loss of foreign currency and other social problems.

Hien suggested that the Government consider allowing Vietnamese nationals to enter casinos in the country but strictly limit those who pass requirements related to income and personal record.

In the long-term, Finance Minister Dung said a law on regulating gaming businesses should be developed, which covered lotteries, casinos and betting.

The NA Standing Committee will consider passing a resolution on both of the draft decrees. These decrees could be effective starting from January 1, 2014.-VNA