The Vietnamese government’s decision to allow a portion of its citizens to gamble at selected domestic casinos should not significantly harm the Cambodian casino sector said a Cambodian government official.
Vietnamese citizens are an important customer segment for casinos located in Cambodian border towns such as Bavet (pictured), according to some industry analysts.
“Of course, we will definitely get some effect by the new move from the Vietnamese government,” Ros Phirun, a deputy director-general of the Ministry of Economy and Finance’s financial industry department, reportedly said, quoted by the Khmer Times.
He added: “But, it doesn’t mean that it severely affects the whole industry here because they will only let local people gamble at two selected casinos which are really far from us.”
The Vietnamese government published on Friday a decree that paves the way for selected domestic casinos to accept bets from financially-qualified Vietnamese gamblers, for a trial period.
The terms of the 50-page decree – available in Vietnamese on the government’s website – come into effect on March 15. The measure will allow citizens over 21 years old and with a monthly income of at least VND10 million (US$443) to enter local casinos and gamble, news agency AFP reported.
It had been reported in the country’s media in December there would be a three-year trial period for casino gambling by locals. The news followed a meeting between officials of the northern province of Quang Ninh and Vietnam’s Prime Minister, Nguyen Xuan Phuc.
At the time two casino resorts were mentioned as likely to take part in the pilot scheme – one in the northern Van Don Special Economic Zone in Quang Ninh, and the other on the southern resort island of Phu Quoc. Both casinos are said to be under construction, with no scheduled opening date for either having been reported so far.
“Our casinos are mainly at the Bavet border near Ho Chi Minh City [in southern Vietnam] where 90 percent of the Vietnamese are coming from,” Mr Phirun reportedly said.
He added: “Also, I don’t see many Vietnamese from the north coming to gamble in Bavet. I don’t think their local people will spend many hours driving so far to a casino.”
According to government data quoted by the Khmer Times, there are 65 casinos in operation in Cambodia.
Brokerage Union Gaming Securities Asia Ltd said in a Sunday note that it expected border casinos in countries neighbouring Vietnam to be the “hardest hit” by the Vietnamese government’s decision to allow locals to gamble at selected domestic casinos.
Lim Kim Seng, chairman of Lucky89 Group – which reportedly operates two border casinos in Cambodia – told the Phnom Penh Post that the impact of the Vietnamese government’s decision would be devastating for Bavet’s casino sector, as it mostly serves Vietnamese patrons.
“Numerous casinos will close down or go bankrupt because of this,” he reportedly said. “It’s not just the casinos that will suffer, but hundreds of jobs will be lost and real estate prices will collapse.”
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