Vietnam's love of gambling sends lottery sales skyrocketing

Vietnam is loosening its traditionally straight-laced attitude toward gambling having realized that the industry could stuff the nation's coffers.

Vietnamese people spent about US$13 billion on lottery tickets from 2011 through 2015, helping the industry’s revenue to grow on average by 12% annually, according to a government agency.

The combined revenue from lottery companies in 21 southern provinces hit US$3 billion last year, a three-times surge from 2007, Bloomberg cited Vietnam’s Ministry of Finance as saying.

The new computerized lottery company Vietlott that began operating last summer has become the main rival to local state-run lotteries.

A crowded Vietlott lottery shop in Ba Dinh District, Hanoi. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

Vietlott, a joint venture with Malaysian conglomerate Berjaya, reported revenue of more than US$70 million last year. Its American-style game, called Mega 6/45, is the company’s first foray into the market and can be found in major cities of the country.

Each ticket costs VND10,000 (44 US cents) and players pick six different numbers from 1 to 45. To win the jackpot you have to match all six winning numbers from the prize draw. The jackpot grows by a minimum of VND12 billion per draw, and the prize will keep growing until there is a winner.

The country's gaming industry is expected to grow further with the government set to relax its longstanding ban on casino gambling and allow locals to roll the dice at home, rather than traveling overseas for the buzz.

Additional foreign investment of US$3 billion into Vietnam's casino businesses could increase gross domestic product by 0.58% in the first year, local media cited the Institute for Regional Sustainable Development in Hanoi as saying.

By some estimates, the policy change could add up to US$800 million in tax revenue to the state budget each year.

State-run lotteries were for years the only form of gambling allowed in Vietnam.

Since Vietnamese gamblers have no access to local casinos, they often cross the border into neighboring Cambodia where there are many gaming centers, mostly exclusive to Vietnamese players.

The three-year trial to remove the ban on locals in casinos is expected to make Vietnam a bright spot on the global gaming market as nearly 60% of its population is under 35, according to market research firm Nielson. The firm also expects the country's middle class to more than double in size between 2014 and 2020, from 12 million to 33 million.

“It is true that Vietnamese people like the thrill and risk [of gambling],” Chinh Le, a VnExpress reader, said in a comment.

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