ietnam’s six casinos are open only to foreign-passport holders, and various attempts over the last several years to modify the restriction have been unsuccessful in the face of political opposition. Last June, the ruling Communist Party’s Politburo approved a pilot program aimed at opening the domestic market but only in a special economic zone known as Van Don in the northern province of Quang Ninh, where an investment consortium is planning a large-scale mixed-use resort with gaming.
Developers of the US$500 million Grand – Ho Tram, which has struggled since opening last summer on the South China Sea coast about 70 miles from Ho Chi Minh City, are hoping they will be included as well.
In the meantime, thousands of Vietnamese flock daily to the casino at NagaWorld in Phnom Penh and the smaller casinos closer in on the Cambodian border, and Vietnam derives no economic benefit. Addressing this issue, a majority of lawmakers on the National Assembly’s Standing Committee agreed in April on a loosening of the domestic ban, but under tightly regulated conditions.
As Chairman of the Finance and Budget Committee Phung Quoc Hien said at the time, “Thorough research is needed before Vietnamese can be allowed into casinos." Nguyen Van Hien, chairman of the assembly's Justice Committee, said, "We need to legalize gambling for our own citizens with foresight, because of the growth of criminal elements around the industry without strict management."
The new regulations also provide for a modest relaxation of the country’s stringent investment requirements, stipulating that investors or managing partners will only be required to demonstrate five years’ experience in gaming instead of the 10 years suggested in an earlier draft.
The US$4 billion investment will be maintained, however, and gaming floors will still be capped at 200 table games and 2,000 machine games. Casinos also would be prohibited from taking their wares online.The draft also calls for advertising to be regulated jointly by the Finance Ministry and the ministries ofPlanning and Investment and the Culture, Sports and Tourism.