Football Betting A Knotty Problem
By staff writers
Like many other places on this earth, the FIFA World Cup brings to Vietnam joy and also the pressing problem of illegal betting. How to deal with this remains a hard nut to crack.
Two years ago, on a Monday in the end of June, investigative police under the HCM City Police Department halted a Lexus en route from Lam Dong to Saigon. Informants had told law enforcement officers that on the car were members of an illegal football betting ring. Convincing evidence found inside the Lexus—including materials related to betting, cash worth US$59,000 and VND700 million, and several laptops containing relevant information—gave the police ample reasons to arrest these people. Subsequent investigations showed that the total betting money handled by this ring might have amounted to more than US$5 million. The ring’s network has spread to many provinces nationwide.
Roughly a year ago, in the evening of May 24, police officers from the Danang Police Department stormed a house on Ngu Hanh Son Street in the coastal city. On the spot, the police caught Mai Trung Thanh red-handed when he was accepting betting money. Investigators said that Thanh was among the fat cats who had been able to gain 10% of the money he received for every bet.
The above two stories reflected the effort by law enforcement bodies to curb illegal gambling, particularly football betting, which has become widespread in Vietnam. However, despite authorities’ drives launched year after year to rid the country of betting, an illegal flourishing gambling market has further expanded.
No matter how hard authorities have tried, football bettors now have a wide choice of betting, from local tournaments and national championships in foreign countries, especially in Europe and South America, to regional and continental tournaments, in particular UEFA Euro Cup. However, the heaven for gamblers and bookmakers alike is nothing other than the World Cup, the biggest football tournament on earth.
A news release by Nielsen Vietnam indicates that in the Asian Pacific region, Vietnam ranks second in a poll on the most fervent football followers with 52% of the interviewees claiming themselves to be football fans, trailing only behind Indonesia. Also, as per the intent to follow the World Cup, Vietnam ranks only behind Korea. (see more on p. 25)
An article in Tuoi Tre newspaper reported about a group of football bettors in HCM City. They hired a house in Binh Thanh District to use as their “headquarters” during the World Cup season. In an alley, the house was equipped with air conditioners, cable TVs and ADSL high-speed Internet lines.
At midnight local time, the time of matches in Europe, all the group fixed their eyes to the TV screen. At the same time, they were able to watch other ongoing matches shown on the Web.
Roughly a decade ago, William Hill was best known and almost the only football bookmaker for local gamblers. However, the Internet has allowed Vietnamese bet-takers to get access to a multitude of websites specializing in football betting. Their main servers are mostly placed overseas. These betting websites, however, have operators and contact addresses in Vietnam. Their operations in Vietnam are comparable with Vietnamese-hosted websites and big betting counterparts in the Western world as to the diversity of gambling, the number of gamblers as well as the number and value of wagers.
During the past few years, online football betting advisory service has become a high incidence. Bettors will receive a piece of advice sent to their mobile phones for as cheap as VND15,000 (less than US$1) a message. However, the so-called VIP-tips are much more expensive, and their prices also differ considerably, ranging from several hundred to thousands of U.S. dollars. The payment method is very simple. What a user must do is to transfer money to an account specified on the site, then call operators to inform them of the deal. That’s done!
Strangely enough to him, claimed the author of the article in Tuoi Tre, information accessible on one of such websites shows that it has eight accounts at eight different banks based in Vietnam. Another “advisory service” says its “ultra tip” for the duration of this World Cup, which ensures a 99% winning possibility, is sold for US$5,000.
In an interview with the press, Lieutenant Colonel Phan Chi Hung from the HCM City Police Department said as a rule, the World Cup intensifies illegal football betting in Vietnam. The gambling has become worse in recent years as online betting and advice service add fuel to the fire, Hung said.
Hung added that the municipal police have coordinated with related agencies to crack down on illegal football betting. “We have plans to monitor the hot spots and ex-convicts so that we can quickly intervene should a crime be committed.”
However, want it or not, football betting has become part of the daily life in Vietnam. Not long ago, some local scholars posed the question of whether Vietnam should legalize football betting. Unofficial estimates show that some US$1 billion is spent every year on this type of gambling. A considerable amount of tax could be collected if football betting becomes legitimated and is put under control.
That’s an issue we have to think twice!
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