The Vietnamese government has reportedly approved gambling by locals on a trial basis in two casinos which are currently under development according to local media reports.
One casino is being constructed by Vietnamese firm Sun Group within the Van Don Special Economic Zone located in northern section of the country near the Chinese border. The other is in Phu Quoc Island, located towards the southern region of the country and is being developed by another local company named Vingroup.
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc is said to have made the announcement during a meeting with local officials in the province of Quang Ninh where one of the casinos is located. He is also said to have confirmed that the government was continuing to work on the draft decree on gambling that has been in the works for over two years now. The draft decree seeks to expand the country’s gambling industry in an attempt to boost tourism and revenue from it.
According to the Prime Minister, the decree would be specifying the regulations for locals’ gambling in casinos. Augustine Ha Ton Vinh, who is acting as an advisor to the government on gambling issues has said earlier that locals will be allowed to gamble in two local casinos on a trial basis for three years . He had mentioned that an entry fee of $50 for one visit and $1,100 for a monthly pass would be levied.
In addition to tapping the domestic market, Vietnam hopes to attract international tourists in particular from nearby China. The decision marks a reversal of the government’s stance which until now had banned gambling by locals. The decision is possibly in response to industry experts who have been pointing out that without allowing local access to casinos, the country would not be able to draw in the projected annual revenue of $3 billion from the industry.
A media reports puts the industry’s current annual revenue to be in the region of $300 million. Though several projects are under development in the country, international casino operators have been hesitant to enter the market given the restrictions and the high investment requirements. Current laws requires operators to make a minimum investment of $4 billion for a casino project and have a minimum of 10 years’ experience in casino industry.
Anti-gambling activists have however been against the move stating that the resultant social costs were very high, ranging from increased crime to gambling addiction.