NA ponders electronic gaming for foreigners
HA NOI (VNS)— Members of the National Assembly's Standing Committee yesterday debated a draft decree on electronic gambling for foreigners.
NA Vice Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan said electronic gambling services were fairly new to Viet Nam so the decree must ensure strict management of the industry.
Minister of Finance Vuong Dinh Hue said this business, approved 20 years ago, aimed at offering more entertainment activities for foreigners and encouraging more foreign investment in the country.
So far, 43 establishments including three-or-more star hotels and tourist agencies with jackpot machines and slot machines had opened, mainly in Ha Noi and HCM City.
He said the revenue from electronic gambling reached VND5 trillion (US$238 million) last year and each establishment earned an average of VND20 billion ($952,000) from this business.
However, Hue emphasised the necessity of a new decree because some current regulations on licensing conditions were no longer suitable with the ongoing social-economic situation and newly approved laws such as the Investment Law or Enterprise Law.
Moreover, the lack of specific regulations on licensing and state management as well as punishment levels had led some establishments to allow Vietnamese to use the machines. This led to the Prime Minister's decision in 2007 to temporarily stop granting new licences to operate such games, he said.
Most members of the Standing Committee supported the new decree, which stipulates that the games are only for foreigners and licences can only be granted to hotels ranked with over five stars by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, which signifies that the hotels meet security conditions and do not lack financial resources.
A licence is valid for 10 years.
Locations, operation time, machine conditions, foreign currencies, rights and responsibilities of gamers and investors are also included in the decree. The Ministry of Finance and other relevant sectors and localities are responsible for inspecting the licensed facilities and punishing violators.
Chairman of the NA Law Committee Phan Trung Ly wondered about the similarities between casino activities and electronic games, which are subject to two different decrees.
"To avoid misunderstandings, there should be a specific regulation defining what electronic gambling games are and how they differ from casino activities."
Chairman of the NA Committee for Science, Technology and Environment Phan Xuan Dung shared Ly's idea and expressed his worries that lack of clear and specific regulations on what constitutes an electronic game would lead to illegal investment.
Regarding the number of game machines in each establishment, Phung Quoc Hien, chairman of NA the Finance and Budget Committee said the number of game machines would be decided by the total number of hotel rooms based on the rate of five hotel rooms to one game machine. Otherwise, the number of game machines would get out of control.
He said it was necessary to raise the minimum number of hotel rooms required for operating a game machine or depend on another basis to determine the number of machines, or else to regulate the maximum number of machines in each establishment.
He said members of the committee also suggested shortening the license duration to five years from 10 years as drafted in the decree but raise the number of regular and random inspections to strictly monitor the operation of these establishments.
Lawmakers also focus their attention on security conditions and punishment methods for violators because according to them, this field should be more strictly managed to avoid unnecessary disputes or illegal activities.
Ly said although the maximum fine for violation was VND200 million (US$9,600), it was necessary to classify fine levels for specific violation types and entrust the authority to give different fines for relevant agencies at different levels.
Ksor Phuoc, president of the NA Ethnics Council, said these establishments should be far from residential areas to avoid negative impacts on local people.
Chairman of the NA Economic Committee Nguyen Van Giau said the local relevant authorities at all levels should have the authority to make inspections and determine punishments so that they can take legal responsibility if any legal actions related to these establishments occur in their localities. Management of foreign currencies should also be a priority.
He said the Ministry of Finance should be responsible for State management in this field. However, the decree should define tasks for relevant ministries.
Hue said the drafting board would review the decree and get opinions from experts and lawmakers to amend unsuitable regulations in the draft decree. — VNS