Vietnamese lawmakers urged the government to stop considering gambling a crime, during a discussion on amendments to the Penal Code, local media reported.
On the topic of increasing punishment for gamblers, Pham Xuan Thuong from the northern province of Thai Binh said gambling is not being effectively stopped and is now everywhere, even at temples and pagodas, especially during festivals and holidays, Thanh Nien News reported.
"Lottery is a kind of gambling, so why don't we organize gambling activities in a more sensible and manageable way?," he was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
Do Van Duong from Ho Chi Minh City backed Thuong and the abolishment of gambling as a crime.
"Gambling has existed for a long time. As long as they have money, some people will gamble. We should not worry that gambling will lead to crimes, but think about how to manage gambling activities," he said.
Other lawmakers said Vietnam is losing more than it can gain from gambling, which was outlawed in 1948. Many locals will just go overseas to gamble.
In the government's proposal, gamblers will face criminal charges when their bets are worth VND5 million (US$220), instead of VND2 million ($88) at the moment.
While that means only big gamblers will face criminal charges, the potential jail term is longer, starting at one year, instead of three months.
Last year the finance ministry suggested opening casinos to Vietnamese residents of legal age, instead of limiting them to foreigners and Vietnamese with dual nationality. Meanwhile, the legalization of sports betting was first officially discussed more than five years ago. But the government is still struggling to finalize a draft decree aiming to regulate the business for horse and greyhound races and football matches.
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