Vietnam’s Ministry of Finance has reportedly completed a draft decree that could allow Vietnamese nationals to gamble in casinos at home. The government also plans to reduce regulatory barriers for casino operators to do business in the country in a bid to attract more foreign investors.
According to the draft decree, casinos would be open to Vietnamese nationals aged 21 and over, who would still have to meet certain background and financial criteria that the government will define at a later date, the online edition of Thanh Nien newspaper reported.
Vietnam’s Prime Minister, Nguyen Tan Dung, would be responsible for selecting which casinos could become open to local gamblers.
Vietnam has a population of around 92.5 million. The country has several casinos, but authorities prohibit Vietnamese punters from gambling at home, unless they hold a foreign passport.
In May, speaking at the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) Asia, Joey Lim Keong Yew, chief executive of Donaco International Ltd, said it was just “a matter of time” before casinos in Vietnam would be open to locals. Australia-listed Donaco operates a casino hotel in Vietnam’s northern province of Lao Cai, bordering China’s Yunnan province.
The final draft also proposes easing requirements for casino investors in Vietnam, as the government strives to boost the tourism sector and prevent foreign currency outflows caused by waves of Vietnamese going to gamble at casinos abroad.
A change in legislation could make Vietnam an attractive bet for big gaming companies looking to expand in Asia, since they could eventually be allowed to tap the local market base. That is considered to offer less volatile and potentially more profitable returns than VIP baccarat, the credit-funded Asian high rollers’ game of choice.
The change in legislation however might only be finalised in 2015 because of the administrative procedures that it will have to go through, a senior industry source familiar with the Vietnam market told GGRAsia.
“The Draft Casino Decree for Table Games is yet to be published, and it does not currently contain the locals provision,” said the person.
“I am familiar with the proposal made to the prime minister and the Standing Committee, and it has been described as having a positive momentum,” the source added.
These provisions however have to be incorporated into the next version of the draft decree and written into law, said the person, adding that it might take “no less than six months”.
Grand Ho Tram Strip (pictured) on Vietnam’s southern coast, is supposed to be the first of up to five resorts to be developed along the Ho Tram beachfront, under a government plan requiring a total investment supposedly of US$4 billion.
According to the draft decree, casino investors or managing partners will only be required to demonstrate at least five years experience in the industry, instead of the 10 years suggested in a previous draft, Thanh Nien News reported.
The Finance Ministry however maintained that casino operators need to invest at least US$4 billion and has set a cap of a maximum of 200 tables and 2,000 electronic gaming machines, it added.
It also suggests banning casinos from operating online gambling services.
The draft decree still has to be submitted to the prime minister for approval.
There are seven table game casinos spread across six provinces in Vietnam. There are reports of at least 43 slot clubs in the country, which have no permit for gaming tables.
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"If the [Macau casino] concessions are put up for bid, there will also be a lot of giant Chinese companies, some having nothing to do with gaming, which would like to take over these enormously successful casinos”
Professor emeritus at Whittier Law School in California, in the United States, and a visiting professor at University of Macau