Indochine to play ball

March 01, 2011 | 09:00
Vietnam has not been ready for a real horse-racing facility
illustration photo

Pre-feasibility studies are underway for Vietnam’s first foreign-invested entertainment and sports complex project.

South Korea-based Indochine Partners Consulting Company is providing advisory to the project, proposed by foreign investors Amtote, Turner, Woolin, KSPO, Worldwide Wagering and Tabcorp.

The development will cost around $200 million in the first two phases.

Lim Song, managing director of Indochine Partners, said: “We plan to carry out the project in three phases with 20 hectares needed for the first two phases featuring in-door cycling, high-speed canoe racing and other entertainment facilities. Another 120ha will be for horse-racing development in the third phase.”

“Vietnam has not been ready for a real horse-racing facility. It will take the country much time to improve its aviation system for transporting some 1,500 horses from overseas for our facility. We also need time to train a large amount of jockeys, betting judges, veterinarians and others.  Given the large amount of required development area, looking for a suitable land lot around the country is a challenging job for us as well,” he noted.

Song said the first two phases would be started after an investment licence was granted, while the third phase’s development would be done within 20 years.

Foreign-invested betting services projects currently lack legal backing as a draft decree compiled by the Ministry of Finance (MoF) on betting on horse races, dog races and sports has been waiting for governmental approval for a long time. 

Nguyen Xuan Thuy, an attorney at LCT Lawyers Company Limited, said the most time-consuming problem for foreign investors in this field was that Vietnam had no legal betting regulations for foreign investors.

“The draft decree, once approved, shall be  a legal basis for future projects and operating firms engaged in this field. However, the latest draft has no clear provisions as to whether foreign investors are allowed to establish a foreign-owned betting business company. Meanwhile, under World Trade Organization commitments on services, Vietnam does not commit to this investment sector,” Thuy said.

As stated by the draft decree, the maximum betting rate per person per day shall not be more than VND1 million ($49) and may be adjusted by the MoF.

“This will probably be an issue of consideration for foreign investors’ investment decisions by the reason that this maximum betting rate is not desirable for attracting clients including overseas Vietnamese and foreigners.

Besides, the establishment of horse and dog racing areas has to comply with the planning criteria promulgated by the government, whilst the draft does not regulate the time of promulgating such planning criteria,” Thuy said.

Vietnam currently has the Phu Tho horse-racing course in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 11 and a dog-racing course in Ba Ria-Vung Tau. Any betting service project must seek the prime minister’s nod.

According to the Ministry of Planning and Investment’s Foreign Investment Agency, Vietnam has so far attracted $193 billion from foreign direct investment projects, of which just $1.5 billion or 123 projects are in the cultural, sports and entertainment services sector.

By Song Huong

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