Vietnam has come a long way since its troubles of the last century. It has unified under Communist rule and managed to develop one of the world’s highest rates of economic growth. Despite historic antipathy, the Vietnamese government has even shown signs of warming towards the rather capitalist concept of gambling - it has now issued a number of licences to casinos across the country, although these are currently only accessible by foreign citizens. The country is still many years away from opening itself up to the concept of online gambling, though, with its citizens forced to rely on technology to access the wealth of foreign-based gambling sites.
Gambling is taken very seriously in Vietnam, with the practice almost entirely banned for Vietnamese citizens - at present, only foreign tourists can use the country's opulent casino resorts. The only exception to this is the state-run lottery, which is hugely popular throughout the country. Those who are caught operating illicit gambling dens or online casinos often receive prison sentences of up to two years, although sentences can stretch far beyond that if there are provable connections to loan sharks or organised crime. Those caught playing are often charged with a hefty fine, but this hasn't been enough to deter the nation's gambling enthusiasts, who still bet in their droves.
Not content with controlling gambling within its borders, the Vietnamese government has also incorporated the issue into its foreign policy, taking a hard line with its more carefree neighbours. The issue has been a problem for the already uneasy relationship between Vietnam and its neighbour Cambodia, whose border is lined with casinos. 3,600 Vietnamese are thought to cross into Cambodia every day with the sole intention of visiting these casinos.
This totalitarian approach is also used in connection with online gambling. The authorities blocked almost 200 foreign gambling sites in the run up to Euro 2012, with citizens forced to rely on VPNs to find the best odds on their favourite teams at sites that still welcome players from Vietnam, including Mr Green. Whilst the government's attitude is showing some signs of softening towards sports betting in physical bookmakers, it seems resolved to keep online gambling at bay for as long as it can.
The more or less total ban on gambling hasn't dampened the country's appetite for gambling, though, and there are still plenty of sporting attractions that generate thousands of pounds worth of bets a month. Vietnamese citizens have developed a taste for both football and rugby over the years, although they also have an usually large following for Aussie Rules Football. This has been spurred on by an influx of Australian expats, who helped to establish what is now one of the more successful Aussie Rules clubs in the Asian League: The Vietnam Swans.
The forces of capitalism are beginning to expose the chinks in Vietnam’s legislative armour against gambling. As well as the new casinos, or “entertainment complexes”, that are being developed, it was reported in May 2012 that Hanoi’s Finance Ministry allegedly supported legalising sports betting - the government hopes to make football betting legal by 2016, with the proceeds going towards its sports development programme. The country is also being swayed by its more successful neighbours, with the likes of Singapore and Macau proving how a well-regulated casino industry can transform a country's fortunes.
However, the real question is whether Vietnam is ready for a large and comprehensive gambling infrastructure. Many still consider gambling to be a social ill, although the number of people who subscribe to this more traditional ideal is shrinking by the day. If the government meets its 2016 target, it's hard to see how it can maintain its total ban on gambling, especially as the number of casinos open to tourists grows. Vietnamese citizens don't need to despair, though, with Mr Green allowing registrations through its international site.
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