Legalized gambling in Vietnam remains murky proposition

VOV.VN - Billionaire Trinh Van Quyet, has joined a growing number of foreign and local investors drawn in by the Vietnam government’s decision to allow residents to participate in legalized casino gambling.

Last March, the Vietnamese billionaire announced that he had received the green light from the government to construct a gaming resort in the coastal north-eastern province of Quang Ninh.

The proposed US$2 billion-dollar project would be developed in the Van Don Special Economic Zone in the province of Quang Ninh, through a corporation owned by Quyet, FLC Faros Van Don.

Quyet is placing his bet that the gaming house would be one of the first in Vietnam that would allow locals to legally gamble and that it would serve as a major tourist attraction on its own merits absent gambling.

While nothing has been reduced to writing and there are no firm commitments, shares of Van Don ticked up 5.1% on speculation regarding the proposed casino that includes a five-star hotel, international conference centre, golf course, safari and museum.

Quang Ninh Province is hoping to transform the region into a thriving tourism destination, said Nguyen Duc Long, chair of the provincial people’s committee. We are certainly excited about the prospects of adding Quyet’s first-class resort to the mix of offerings of the region.

Grappling with growing budget deficits the Vietnam government is launching gambling initiatives in an attempt to retain millions of dollars in the country that middle-class and wealthy residents would otherwise spend in casinos abroad.

Earlier this year, the government issued a decree paving the way for yet to be determined selected domestic casinos to offer legalized gambling for residents at least 21 years of age.

Vietnamese nationals would be allowed for a 3-year trial period to gamble in local casinos as of mid-March provided they have a monthly income of at least US$3445 (VND10 million), earnings that are twice the national median.

So, Quyet’s resort in the province of Quang Ninh remains a murky proposition as it is not clear whether it would be one of the locations selected. Its major drawback is that it is not readily accessible to residents of Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City.

Foreign casinos have long considered Vietnam for expansion.

Hong Kong’s Chow Tai Fook Enterprises and VinaCapital Investment Management have announced they are constructing a US$4 billion project in the central province of Quang Nam.

Phil Falcone, the largest investor in the Grand Ho Tram Strip casino resort a two-hour drive from Ho Chi Minh City, has also actively met with the Prime Minister and other politicians seeking permits to operate another gaming resort.

There is a great deal of uncertainty and risk in investing in casinos in Vietnam, noted George Tanasijevich, a senior executive with the US casino operator Las Vegas Sands Corp in a recent interview with the press.

The Sands, he added, has been in discussions with the Vietnamese government for many years and remains hopeful of bringing a resort to the nation’s two largest cities, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City at some point in the future.

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