Last update 2/13/2012 12:40:00 PM (GMT+7)

Casinos: government keeps cautious, investors get impatient

VietNamNet Bridge – Foreign investors can see big business opportunities if developing casinos in Vietnam. Meanwhile, the government of Vietnam still keeps thinking about whether to license such projects.

Right after the news about the attempt of the US Las Vegas Sands to build resort complexes in Hanoi and HCM City with casinos, capitalized at six billion dollars appeared on local newspapers, the Quang Ninh provincial authorities have affirmed that Malaysian Genting Group is considering setting up a complex with casino in Van Don, capitalized at four billion dollars.

The project of Las Vegas Sands has just been revealed by the investor. Meanwhile, the project of Genting has been put on the table of state management agencies already.

Especially, on January 19, 2012, the government released a document, requesting the Ministry of Planning and Investment, together with relevant ministries and the Quang Ninh provincial authorities to discuss about the project.

It is clear that Vietnam is the attractive destination for casino investors. Before Las Vegas Sands sent words intimating that it wants to invest in Vietnam, some multi-billion dollar projects were licensed. These included Silver Shores Hoang Dat in Da Nang City (160 million dollars), Hoang Dong Lang Son (2 billion dollars), Ho Tram Strip (4.2 billion dollars).

The list of casino projects would have been longer, if some other projects had not been refused, including the 4.15 billion dollar Bai Bien Rong project in Quang Nam or the 4 billion dollar Mui Dinh project in Ninh Thuan province suggested by a Hong Kong’s investor. In August 2011, Macau investor proposed to implement the project on Hoang Gia City in Yen Bai and Phu Tho, which includes a casino.

In 2011, Kien Giang province was the only locality which got the approval to develop a casino there.

Also in 2011, Kien Giang local authorities refused the proposal of the investor of the two billion euro Hon Ngoc Viet project to develop a casino. Meanwhile, Lao dong newspaper has reported that Kien Giang has reserved a land plot with an area of 130 hectares for resorts which include casinos.

A question has been raised that if Vietnam should change its viewpoint and allow casino projects to develop in Vietnam?

Two or three years ago, some high ranking officials, especially the ones from border provinces, once urged the government to open the doors for casino, or Vietnam would lose a lot of money. As Vietnamese are not allowed to go to casinos in Vietnam, they have been traveling across the border to Cambodia or Macau to gamble. As a result, Vietnam suffers the so called “foreign currency bleeding,” because the Vietnamese people bring dollars with themselves to Macau or Cambodia to spend at casinos.

From the angle of foreign direct investment attraction, Vietnam would miss huge investment capital, if it insists on saying “no” to casinos.

In fact, in September 2011, the Prime Minister requested the Ministry of Finance to draft a legal document on the management over “electronic games with prizes for foreigners”.

The words “electronic games with prizes” are understood by Vietnamese people as “casinos”. However, the Prime Minister has emphasized that the draft document compiled by the ministry does not include the regulations for “casinos.”

Professor Dr Nguyen Mai, former Deputy Chair of the State Committee for Cooperation and Investment, frankly said on Dau tu that Vietnam should not regret the investment capital in casinos, and that Vietnam should be choosy in attracting foreign direct investment.

Mai believes that Vietnam should not grant licenses too many projects on providing electronic games with prizes for foreigners, though he thinks that Vietnam should not prohibit casinos.

Mai has raised a question about the profitability of the projects with casinos, and if the casinos can bring money if the government still does not allow Vietnamese people to go to casinos. The casino in Do Son has not been expanded after the 18 years of operation.

Lan Anh