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Vietnam – Conference warns of Vietnamese saturation

By - 4 April 2014

A proposal by the Vietnamese government to permit casinos to operate in three Special Economic Zones has been greeted with caution at a conference focussing on the future zones.

The three Special Economic Zones are to be located in Van Don in Quang Ninh province, Van Phong in south central Khanh Hoa province and Phu Quoc in southern Kien Giang province.

However, a representative of the American Chamber of Commerce, who spoke on behalf of American investors, warned of a potential over supply as there was already a succession of blue prints for large-scale casinos throughout Vietnam. The government has approved seven casinos in the country over the past 20 years with

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five already in operation and two currently being built.

“If we just build small casinos like in the Crowne Plaza Danang, it is not a problem. But if we want to build large-scale casinos in Vietnam, we should think about demand,” she warned.

She added that even with the Vietnamese government considering trialling Vietnamese play in the new casinos, income per capita in Vietnam remained low, which could hamper the success of large-scale casinos. She believed three large-scale casinos would be enough for the country.

Le Vu Thanh, Chief Representative of the US-ASEAN Business Council in Vietnam, is concerned that four or five large-scale casinos could see the market quickly saturate.

He said: “To successfully develop such major casinos we must remember that the main players should be Vietnamese, not foreigners. I don’t think Vietnam needs many big casinos.”

Vu Tien Loc, President of Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that the plan for the Van Don Special Economic Zone was to develop a world-class casino to cater to international players.

Mr. Loc said: “One significant issue that needs careful study is whether local Vietnamese residents would be allowed to gamble in the casinos.”

Vietnam’s largest casino; the $4.2bn Ho Tram Strip in the southern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau, which opened in July 2013, will eventually boast 180 tables and 2,000 machines.

Another property similar in size to that at Ho Tram Strip is being planned by Peninsular Pacific in conjunction with Vietnamese asset management firm VinaCapital in the central province of Quang Nam. With another, large-scale, integrated resort planned for Phu Quoc Island in the southern province of Kien Giang, the question remains whether saturation point will be reached long before the appearance of casinos in the Special Economic Zones.

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