With two international operators this month visiting government officials in Vietnam, the push to allow locals to gamble in Vietnamese casinos is gaining momentum.
An advisor to the government claiming it was now ‘80 to 90 per cent certain’ that Vietnamese citizens would be allowed to play in larger casino resorts within ‘two to three years.’
The advisor, Augustine Ha Ton Vinh, revealed that of the 13 casinos in Vietnam, only two; the future Van Don project and the existing Ho Tram resort would be able to waive the safeguards against local entry with an entrance fee and credit checks being applied. The checks will likely mirror those used in Singapore.
“The Vietnamese government has sent a lot of delegations to Macau, Australia and Singapore to learn best practice,” the advisor said, adding that the necessary legislation could be drafted and approved within two years if the Government wished to proceed. He believes the time scale of the new laws would coincide with the scheduled opening of the Van Don project in Quang Ninh province east of Hanoi.
Analysts though believe the laws should be fast tracked to allow the foreign investment in Ho Tram to pay dividends rather than leave it open to foreign play only for another two years.
Around 3,000 Vietnamese from the Mekong Delta provinces of Dong Thap, Kien Giang, Long An and Tay Ninh in the south are crossing the Vietnamese-Cambodia border each day to play in more than 30 casinos in Cambodia.
Only foreigners and overseas Vietnamese that hold a valid passport granted by a competent foreign agency and have entered Vietnam legally are allowed to gamble.
A law coming in October 1 will increase the fines for an operator allowing Vietnamese citizens to gamble to VND200m ($9,500) and to VND100m for the individual.
The prediction of the timing for the new laws has coincided with more international interest in Vietnam’s casino sector. Las Vegas Sands owner Sheldon Adelson has held discussions with Vietnamese Minister of Planning and Investment Bui Quang Vinh, detailing the operator’s potential investment plans in the country.
Sands wants to build two integrated resorts, including casinos, in Hanoi and HCM City, with a total cost of US$6bn. They would include hotel, restaurants, areas for exhibitions and fairs, conference halls, shopping malls, spas, sport halls, a theatre, cinemas, a museum and other entertainment services.
Mr. Adelson is believed to have asked government officials to create favourable business conditions for foreign investors to do business in Vietnam, with an emphasis on allowing Vietnamese citizens to gamble in casinos.
Casinos Austria has also confirmed its interest in Vietnam with plans to invest in an integrated casino resort in Quang Ninh province.
Richard Lehner, a Senior Advisor for Casinos Austria, recently visited the northern province and asked for permission to conduct a feasibility study for the project.
A source at the Van Don Economic Zone Management Authority said: “Casinos Austria’s representative told the provincial leaders that the firm saw potential in this project and wanted to exploit the opportunity here.”
NA Chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung has said previously: “The draft decree should include concrete criteria for Vietnamese to be eligible to gamble at casinos. It should also have regulations on how to control those gamblers. There should be a legal foundation for allowing Vietnamese to gamble at casinos. The Politburo has met to discuss this issue. I agree with allowing Vietnamese to gamble at casinos on a pilot basis, provided there is a legal foundation. A regulation allowing Vietnamese to gamble at the Van Don Specific Economic Zone on a pilot basis should be added to the draft decree.”