Casinos must ban Vietnamese without decent income, family approval: draft rules

By Thanh Thanh Lan   January 14, 2017 | 04:00 am PT
Newly proposed gambling rules allow locals to enter casinos for the first time, but set the income threshold at $440 per month.

Vietnamese may soon be allowed to enter local casinos, but they will have to pass an income check first.

A draft decree aims to finally lift the long-running gambling ban on Vietnamese, but it requires that local players be at least 21 years old and prove that they have a stable monthly income level of VND10 million ($440) or more.

Those whose family members, including parents, spouses or children, believe that they should not gamble will also be barred. These family members can send a letter to notify casinos and request a ban.

The average income of Vietnamese last year was estimated at US$2,200, which means a majority of locals will be denied entry if the income requirement is strictly enforced.

The new rules, if approved, will let Vietnamese to first enter two casinos only -- one in the Van Don Special Economic Zone in the northern province of Quang Ninh Province and the other in the southern resort island of Phu Quoc.

Both casinos are under construction, with no scheduled opening date at the moment. They will test the admittance of local players for three years.

The draft decree also eases requirements for casino investors, by lowering the capital requirement from $4 billion to $2 billion.

It also proposes a 24-hour entrance fee of VND1 million or a monthly fee of VND25 million for Vietnamese players.

There has been a prolonged legal back-and-forth on gambling in Vietnam, but lately it has become increasingly certain that the government will move forward with lifting the casino ban on locals.

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc last month reaffirmed that the Communist Party’s decision-making Politburo was on board with the idea that Vietnamese should be allowed to enter casinos.

International casino developers, for whom Asia has become a global gaming engine following the stagnation in the U.S., have been circling Vietnam for some time now.

With a population of nearly 92 million, analysts said that by lifting the gambling ban, Vietnam could reignite interest in investors who had previously pulled out of casino projects due to tough entry barriers.

A study by Augustine Ha Ton Vinh, an academic who has researched Vietnam’s gaming industry extensively, showed the country is hemorrhaging as much as $800 million a year in tax revenue from gamblers who cross the border to Cambodia. Vietnamese authorities have endorsed this study.

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