Green lights to light up gaming

August 27, 2012 | 15:23
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Unlimited electronic gaming facilities, in accordance with the latest Ministry of Finance’s decree draft, could open the door for more foreign-invested projects in Vietnam.

Many resorts currently offer gaming, but Vietnamese are barred from entry

Under the decree draft regulating conditions for running electronic gaming services in Vietnam, an investor can gain a licence for running  an electronic gaming facility as long as it satisfies some of conditions such as running a hotel or resort with at least five-star rate and the gaming facility is separated from other facilities of the hotel. The hotel or resort must be the one regularly receiving a “big amount” of foreign guests. However, there is no explanation on how the “big amount” is.

Otherwise, the investor must meet other criteria including business plan, security measure and “financial ability” instead of at least $4 billion under the existing Government Announcement 97/TB-VPCP issued in 2007.

More importantly, the decree draft which is now under the government’s consideration, does not limit the amount of electronic gaming  facilities nationwide like Singapore, Malaysia and the UK.

“The draft is making it easy for casino business because all of these above conditions are not difficult to reach,” said Nguyen Mai, chairman of the Vietnam Association of Foreign Invested Enterprises.

Since 1992 when electronic gaming services was first allowed in Vietnam, 50 electronic gaming facilities have been licenced nationwide with $4.2 billion Ho Tram Strip project in southern Ba Ria-Vung Tau province being the largest. The project is expected to open in February 2013.
Many foreign investors are trying to encourage the Vietnamese government to allow integrated casinos-and-convention resorts in the country.

Malaysia’s Genting Group, for instance, proposed to build an integrated casino and resort complex in northern Quang Ninh province’s Van Don Economic Zone. Meanwhile, the Las Vegas Sands Corp is proposing to build integrated casino and resort complexes in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.

The Ministry of Finance, in its document sent to the government explaining the need of the new decree governing gaming services, said the development of electronic gaming services could spur the nation’s tourism industry, create jobs and contribute significantly to the state budget.

From 1992 till now, the total revenue from electronic gaming business is estimated to reach about $72 million per year and contribute to the state budget at the average level of $11.5 million per year, according to the ministry.

Even though Vietnamese nationals will remain banned from electronic gaming services, Mai said to allow integrated casinos and resorts nationwide could cause social instability.

Mai suggested Vietnam  develop a centre like Macau or Las Vegas that would be convenient for the government to manage, and that Phu Quoc island would be an ideal place.

By Nguyen Trang

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