Following twists and turns, Vietnam may lift casino ban on locals after all

By VnExpress   December 22, 2016 | 07:47 pm PT
Following twists and turns, Vietnam may lift casino ban on locals after all
Men play cards in Hanoi. Photo by Reuters/Kham
The move will certainly revive hopes for both locals and investors.

Vietnam is considering allowing locals to enter casinos soon, ending a ban that has been at the center of a protracted legal back and forth, according to media reports.

The government is working on a draft decree specifying requirements for citizens if they wish to gamble in a local casino, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said at a meeting on Thursday.

Phuc also reaffirmed that the Communist Party's decision-making Politburo has already given permission for Vietnamese people to first enter two casinos, 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 are expected to test the admittance of local players for three years, but now specific timeframe has not been announced.

News of the government finally moving forward with gambling regulations for locals will certainly revive hopes for both locals and investors, analysts say.

In an unexpected twist, the Ministry of Finance in September said that locals should not be allowed to enter casinos, even though the country’s top leadership had already given the green light to lift the ban several years ago.

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 ban on locals gambling, 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.

Under the current law, foreign investors seeking to operate a casino in Vietnam have to build large-scale integrated resorts with malls, restaurants, entertainment facilities and luxury hotels. They also need to invest at least $4 billion and have 10 years of experience in the casino business.

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