A plan permitting Vietnamese into a casino in the southern province of Kien Giang is a step closer after the Ministry of Planning and Investment submitted paperwork to Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc.
The VietNamNet website reports that the casino on the island of Phu Quoc aims to trial the plan for three years.
The government lifted a ban on Vietnamese gambling in casinos in March 2017, following a decree in January 2017 allowing a trial project for gambling by economically-qualified locals at certain venues. But the market is still awaiting news of how that policy will be applied in practice.
Customers must be older than 21 and have a monthly income of at least VND10 million (USD437). Only casino resorts with a total capital investment of at least US$2 billion – including gaming and non-gaming facilities – are eligible to welcome Vietnamese to gamble.
The VietNamNet report said that on March 1 the Ministry of Planning and Investment presented the prime minister with a plan for a complex for tourism, entertainment and other services, including a casino, on Phu Quoc. Then, last month, the provincial authorities in Kien Giang asked the prime minister to allow the casino on Phu Quoc to serve as a site to trial admittance of Vietnamese players, arguing that it would attract visitors, help the province develop and contribute to regulatory efforts.
Last November, Augustine Ha Ton Vinh told GGRAsia the Vietnamese government was likely to open two casinos to local customers. Mr Ha, an academic who has advised the government on liberalising Vietnam’s gaming industry, said a resort in Northern Vietnam at Van Don and on Phu Quoc Island would be among the first to admit locals.
The prospect of local play in Vietnam has had major U.S.-based casino firms including Las Vegas Sands Corp and Hard Rock International LLC studying the market. But the US$2-billion entry price does not appear automatically to guarantee operators permission for entry of locals, and the locals initiative is at this stage only for a trial period due to run for three years.
“We’re not necessarily in love with the conditions or the three-year test period,” said Sheldon Adelson, chairman and chief executive of potential Vietnam suitor Las Vegas Sands, in comments to investment analysts on the group’s first-quarter 2017 earnings call.
During the 2017 MGS Entertainment Show – a casino industry trade exhibition and conference held in November –, Andrew Klebanow, senior partner at business consultancy Global Market Advisors LLC told GGRAsia that Vietnam would need to balance its domestic policy expectations regarding what the casino industry could deliver in terms of inward investment, with the commercial needs of the operators. He described the reported US$2-billion capital threshold as an “unrealistic number”.
Hong Kong-listed Suncity Group Holdings Ltd – which does not currently contain the assets of the brand’s core Macau casino junket business – is currently committed to managing a casino resort at Van Don in Vietnam on behalf of third-party investors, and plans to invest in helping to build a US$4-billion Vietnam resort at Hoi An from the ground up and then run it.
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