“Uncertainty and risk” remain for investors regarding the Vietnam casino market, said George Tanasijevich, a senior executive with casino operator Las Vegas Sands Corp, in comments reported by the Vietnam Economic Times news outlet.
But he added, in an interview published last week: “Our desire to invest and develop an integrated resort in Ho Chi Minh City and/or Hanoi remains unchanged.”
The firm has previously expressed interest in building a gaming resort in Vietnam – provided that such a facility could be open to local players.
On January 20, the Vietnamese government published a decree paving the way for selected domestic casinos in that country to accept bets – for the first time – from economically-qualified Vietnamese gamblers aged 21 and over. The initiative would be for a trial three-year period.
Only casino resorts with a total capital investment of at least US$2 billion – including gaming and non-gaming facilities – would be eligible to welcome Vietnamese to gamble, the AFP news agency reported at the time.
Based on other information coming from the country via local media, it is not yet clear how many casino resorts might be allowed to offer gaming for locals, and in what locations.
Mr Tanasijevich (pictured), president and chief executive of Las Vegas Sands’ unit Marina Bay Sands Pte Ltd – operator of the group’s Marina Bay Sands resort in Singapore – is also managing director, global development, for the group.
He reportedly told the Vietnam Economic Times, regarding investment in Vietnam: “There is still uncertainty and risk from the perspective of the investor, given that local entry is being introduced as a three-year pilot programme. We will closely follow the programme and assess our opportunities.”
Mr Tanasijevich said in order to support a multibillion U.S. dollar project and to maximise the economic benefits for the country, any resort should be in a “central urban location”. He mentioned the southern metropolis of Ho Chi Minh City or the capital Hanoi in the north, adding that schemes in such places would provide “the greatest economic impact for Vietnam in terms of job creation, increased tourism, economic growth, and tax revenue”.
A Las Vegas Sands-built “world-class MICE [meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions] facility would help to boost tourism and enhance Vietnam’s reputation as a place to do business,” stated the executive.
“We view Vietnam as a market that has a huge upside for business and leisure tourism,” he added.
According to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, the total number of arrivals to the country by international visitors rose 26 percent year-on-year in 2016, to just over 10.01 million. Macau received three times that number of visitors in 2016, including arrivals from mainland China.
For Vietnam, mainland China was the largest single contributor to the annual visitor tally, accounting for 27 percent of arrivals, or nearly 2.70 million visits. South Korea was the second-largest contributor, with 15 percent of arrivals, or 1.54 million visits.
AFP reported that the Vietnam government’s January 20 decree mentioned local gamblers would need to have a monthly income of at least VND10 million (US$439) to enter local casinos and gamble.
Mr Tanasijevich was quoted saying that Las Vegas Sands’ experience of running gaming in Singapore – a jurisdiction where locals must pay a casino entry levy and where the city-state’s government actively promotes responsible gambling and harm mitigation programmes – would be of benefit were it to run gaming in Vietnam.
“We will work closely with local authorities to manage a set of social safeguards. We have experience with social safeguards in Singapore that have proven effective at lowering levels of problem gambling within the community,” the Las Vegas Sands executive was quoted as saying.
Sheldon Adelson, chairman and chief executive of Las Vegas Sands, on February 21 reaffirmed the group’s interest in building a casino resort in a major urban centre in Japan, following that country’s legalisation in December of such business. He told an investor conference in Tokyo that day, he expected it could cost up to US$10 billion to build.
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”Continued negative coverage of the Abe administration, coupled with political losses for the Liberal Democratic Party ... may reduce support for the gaming agenda, which already has only limited public support”
Analyst at brokerage Sanford C. Bernstein