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Vietnam’s Big Casino Plans Hinge on Locals Being Allowed to Gamble

While Saigon and Hanoi are home to a number of casinos, it is illegal for Vietnamese to roll the dice in their country. Plans for large-scale casinos have been in the works for years but until locals are allowed to join in, international investors will view the market as a "a future development opportunity,” according to Reuters.

Vietnamese, many of whom have a special place in the heart for gambling, often travel to neighboring Cambodia’s casinos. Beyond the reports of violent debt collection practices in Cambodia (i.e. here’s your son’s finger, pay his debt.), the Vietnamese government and wealthy business people are acutely aware that they’re missing out on huge tax revenues and profits:

“Augustine Ha Ton Vinh, an academic who says he is advising the government on liberalizing Vietnam's gaming industry, estimates the country is losing as much as $800 million a year in tax revenue from Vietnamese who gamble in Cambodia.”

The national assembly is set to debate the issue in the near future and anonymous sources told Reuters that the government is already planning a US$7.5 billion pilot program (Van Don Casino) near the Chinese border.

International gambling companies are attracted to Vietnam due to its young population, close location to wealthy Chinese (who are known to be high-rollers) and many prosperous Asian capitals.

In turn, industry executives think that Vietnam has the potential to become a “regional casino hub” that could rake in up to US$3 billion annually, matching the Philippines and South Korea.

The Vietnamese government has allowed foreign companies to operate small-scale casinos since 2003. To lure bigger fish, it has proposed a draft law, “that would require foreign gaming companies with a minimum of 10 years experience in the industry to commit to investments of no less than $4 billion.”

Even if Vietnam improves on its casino record, which has been weighed down by delays, canceled contracts, poor infrastructure and funding problems, the big boys from Las Vegas won’t be writing any checks unless, “laws prohibiting locals from taking part were eased,” said a Genting executive.

Reuters quotes a Vietnamese gambler about his opinion on legalizing gambling for locals:

"It'll be a lot more convenient, it'll save me time and money," said one gambler, munching on a baguette and sipping sweet coffee while waiting for his car ride to Cambodia. "It doesn't matter where I gamble, I always seem to lose anyway."

 

[Reuters // Photo via Thomas Hawk

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