“At least 10 provinces” in Vietnam have applied for permission to host casinos in their jurisdictions.
That’s the word from Minister of Planning and Investment Bui Quang Vinh, who told daily newspaper Thanh Nien his office has been deluged with requests since the Communist Party’s all-powerful Politburo indicated its support last year for rescinding a longstanding ban on casino gambling by the country’s citizens—albeit with conditions and on a trial basis with a view to supporting resort investment in a special economic zone in the province of Quang Hinh, which is close to China and the popular tourist destination of Halong Bay.
Van Don, as the zone is known, is attracting interest from both domestic and foreign investors, highlighted by a recent visit from Las Vegas Sands Chairman Sheldon Adelson and a plan floated by a prominent Vietnamese businessman and developer, Dao Hong Tuyen, reportedly backed by American money, for building a multibillion-dollar mixed-use resort complex with a casino there.
Farther south, the government also has a vested interest in the success of The Grand – Ho Tram, which opened last summer on the coast about 70 miles from Ho Chi Minh City at a cost of US$500 million. Developed with US and Canadian capital, it is the largest investment in resort development in Vietnam’s history, and it’s reported to be struggling in the absence of locals play.
In the meantime, millions of Vietnamese evade the ban every year by crossing the border into Cambodia, resulting in a massive exodus of currency and tax revenues the government is anxious to recover.
Judging from the success of casinos like NagaWorld in Phnom Penh the potential of the Vietnamese market could be vast if the ban is lifted, and the Politburo’s support for limited liberalization seems indicative of a country whose economy has not been performing well and critically needs investment and casinos fit the bill. The National Assembly, where 90 percent of lawmakers are Communist Party members, is reported to be gearing up for a vote on loosening the ban as part of a comprehensive framework for regulating the industry.