Hanoi rolls the dice on locals The ruling Communist Party of Vietnam has recently made it clear that it supports the creation of a new gaming industry and will allow local Vietnamese to enter designated casinos on a trial basis. AGB spoke to Prof. Augustine Ha Ton Vinh about the new legislation during the East Meets West Regulators Summit in the Philippines in October. Vinh is a Vietnam gaming expert and Senior Advisor to the Van Don Special Economic Zone and Integrated Resorts. He was a guest speaker at the Summit.
GB: We understand that the leaders of the ruling party of Vietnam have said they support the gaming industry and will allow local Vietnamese to enter casinos. Can you tell us what you know and where the country is heading? Vinh: Late last month, the ruling party’s leaders made it clear that they support the creation of a new gaming industry. The long-awaited decision will be fresh air in the dry season. In June 2013, the Party’s Politburo announced it supported a new Special Economic Zone and integrated resort on Van Don Island, situated in the UNESCO World Heritage Ha Long Bay. Along with its support, the Politburo commissioned research to assess the socio-economic impacts of allowing local Vietnamese to enter casinos. After three years of soul searching and policy debates, the ruling party’s leaders believe now is the time to move ahead, creating a new gaming industry. Late last month, they made clear a number of issues of great interest to investors, operators and local Vietnamese, namely: 1. Local Vietnamese will be allowed to visit designated casinos. 2. Van Don and Phu Quoc integrated resorts are the two locations authorized to accept local Vietnamese on a 3-year trial basis. 3. In addition to the four already approved locations for IRs: Van Don, South Hoi An, Ho Tram, and Phu Quoc, two more integrated resorts are under consideration: in Hue and Cam Ranh Bay. 4. Total investment for an integrated resort is US$2 billion. A minimum $1 billion has to be disbursed before a gaming license is granted. 5. Smaller casinos can be expanded, upgraded to a higher IR level if they meet financial and other requirements, e.g.
Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2016
significant contributions to local economic and tourism development. 6. The new and revised draft gaming casino has to be finalized as soon as possible. AGB: The Ministry of Finance has taken years to come up with draft gaming versions that meet reasonable expectations of international investors and operators. Will the final decree by acceptable and when will it be released? Vinh: Following the ruling party’s decision on the new gaming industry, the Ministry of Finance has come up with a new draft decree which is much more realistic than previous draft versions in 2013 and June 2016. The new version was drafted based on the Party’s decision and covered all the issues of major interest to investors, operators, etc. Some key items include: 1. MOF divides the gaming industry into two levels, large casinos with US$2 billion in investment, and small casinos with any investment below the $2 billion investment level. 2. The draft decree made it clear local Vietnamese, 21 years and above making around US$500 per month in salary, without criminal records, and no objection from family members, i.e. spouses, parents, children, will be allowed to enter casinos. 3. The Van Don and Phu Quoc integrated resorts are designated locations for local Vietnamese. There will be a trial period of 3 years from the date they receive the gaming license. 4. The gaming license will be for a period of 20 years with a one-time non-renewable extension of 10 years. 5. Investors or operators have to commit a minimum of US$2 billion for each integrated resort and a 50 percent disbursement, or $1 billion has to be made before a gaming
license is granted. 6. For each US$10 million in disbursed investment, investors can operate one gaming table and 10 electronic gaming or slot machines. Now that the Party leaders have decided on the future of the Vietnam gaming industry and the next steps, I believe MOF will soon release the final gaming decree, possibly in the next few months. AGB: Why was the Ho Tram IR not selected as a pilot project for local Vietnamese? Vinh: Asian C o ast D e velopment Ltd. (ACDL), through its wholly-owned subsidiary Ho Tram Project Company Ltd., is the developer of the Ho Tram Strip starting in early 2008. In April 2013, ACDL received its gaming license after an initial investment of about US$500 million out of a total commitment of about $4 billion. The Ho Tram integrated resort, under its current gaming license, can only receive holders of foreign passports. Since its opening in April 2013, the management of Ho Tram IR is