The government is considering a draft decree on the casino business, the Prime Minister said at a meeting with Quang Ninh authorities on December 22.
He also confirmed that the Politburo’s decision has already given permission for Vietnamese people to enter two casinos, one at Van Don and one on Phu Quoc Island.
The Ministry of Finance (MoF) in September said that local people should not be allowed to enter casinos, even though the country’s senior leadership had already given the green light to lifting the ban several years ago.
In its latest draft decree submitted last month to the government for approval, MoF insisted that only foreigners and Vietnamese with foreign passports should be allowed to gamble in casinos in Vietnam.
“The ban on local people in casinos will extinguish the interests of large companies investing in casino-resort complex in Vietnam,” Mr. Shaun McCamley, Head of the Asia Department at consulting company Global Markets Advisors, told VnEconomy, a sister publication of VET.
News of the government finally moving forward with gambling regulations for local people will revive hopes for both local people and investors, analysts say.
The opening of casinos to local people is a trend in the region, according to Dr. Tran Kim Chung, Deputy Director of the Central Institute for Economic Management (CIEM).
“In the context of integration with the international economy, the country allowing people to enter into casinos is in line with the general trend,” he said.
Figures from Nielsen released in May show that nearly 60% of Vietnam’s population are under the age of 35 and the number of university graduates has increased by 60% within the last decade.
In addition, the consulting firm Boston Consulting Group (BCG) forecasts the population of the middle class and wealthy in Vietnam will more than double in the 2014-2020 period, from 12 million to 33 million.
According to Professor Ha Ton Vinh, an expert on casinos in Vietnam, all executives and representatives of international strategic investors he has bumped into at international conferences and seminars on casinos over the last five years have expressed interest in investment opportunities in Vietnam, especially in large cities.
“With the way things stand now in Vietnam it would be very difficult for investors to make investment commitments as there are too many unnecessary barriers in place,” Professor Vinh believes.
“Investors need clarification on the details relating to the issues above from the government and will suggest it follow the common practice of countries with a developed casino industry.”
From the perspective of an investor, Mr. Don Lam, CEO of VinaCapital, feels optimistic about the latest signs. In discussions with VET he argued that doors being opened to Vietnamese gamblers would contribute to the development of the market.
Figures from MoF showed that there are seven licensed casino businesses but most are of small-scale with investment capital under US$50 million.
Only two large-scale projects - Ho Tram Strip, with an investment of US$4 billion and which come into operation in 2013, and a project at the South Hoi An Resort in Quang Nam province - are still within plans.