common thing of the special projects is that the tourism complexes all have the “entertainment areas for foreigners, where they can join games of chance and get money”. In fact, the phrase means “casinos”.
To date, licensing casino projects is still considered a “sensitive issue” in Vietnam. The country, with its cultural tradition, does not want to develop casinos in Vietnam. Therefore, it has only licensed a very few casino projects in Vietnam so far, and the casinos only serve foreigners.
However, the restriction has not satisfied businessmen, who say they can see big business opportunities from casinos. They argue that gambling is a demand of Vietnamese people, and if Vietnam still continues prohibiting casinos in Vietnam, many Vietnamese people would across the borders to Cambodia to gamble. As a result, the state cannot collect money from the gambling activities. Meanwhile, the lack of casinos will not make Vietnam less attractive in the eyes of foreigners.
Recently, the movement of programming casino projects has been growing in many localities. The project at the Mui Dinh tourism complex in Ninh Thuan province, capitalized at 4.5 billion dollars, is awaiting the approval from government agencies. If the project is licensed, the list of the casinos in Vietnam will be lengthened.
Besides Mui Dinh, there are many other projects of this kind, including New City project (4.3 billion dollars), Silver Shores Hoang Dat in Da Nang (160 million dollars), Nam Hoi An in Quang Nam (4 billion dollars), Hoang Dong Lang Son (2 billion).
If counting on the Do Son Casino in Hai Phong which has been operational for the last many years, or the Bai Bien Rong project in Quang Nam province which got the license revoked earlier this year, one would see that casino projects appear in the cities and provinces in all the north, south and central regions.
Especially, Ba Ria-Vung Tau province alone has two projects – Ho Tram Strip (4.2 billion dollars) and Saigon Atlantic (4.1 billion). Dr Nguyen Mai, a well known economist, said that Vietnam should not go contrary to the law of nature, i.e… it should not prohibit casinos, but it should keep the development moderate and under control.
“There should be the tourism sites with casinos. We would impose high taxes on casinos, which allows bringing money to the state budget and creates jobs for laborers,” Mai said.
He has expressed his support to the plan to open a casino on Phu Quoc island, which is far from the mainland and only those, who really have money, can go gambling.
However, the expert has opposed the current movement of opening casinos in every locality. “No country in the world allows opening so many casinos. Local authorities should not consider opening casinos just because of the benefits of their localities,” he said.
Michael A. Leven, Managing Director of Las Vegas Sands Corp, in a working visit to Vietnam sometime ago, when sharing experience in casino development, also said that Vietnam should build concentrated casinos like the ones in Las Vegas or Macau, while it would be ineffective to build casinos in different localities and it would be difficult to manage them. He said that the majority of the turnover of Las Vegas and Macau are from foreign travelers.
In fact, local authorities want to build casinos in their cities or provinces, because they hope the local economy would be better with the income from tourism services. However, experts say casino is just a part of tourism service. Especially, if the casino development goes beyond the control, it would make more harm than good.
In 2010, the owner of Bai Bien Rong project insisted on building a casino as a part of the project. However, the project then had the licensed revoked because the casino building was not allowed.