Vietnam: Minimum $4 billion required for casino development

Vietnam: Minimum $4 billion required for casino development

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Vietnamese nationals will still be barred from casinos. And anyone hoping to open a house of gambling had better be prepared to ante up a cool $4 billion, at minimum.

These are the provisions of the new draft decree of the Ministry of Finance (MOF). And, as far as most Vietnamese investors are concerned, it puts the final nail in the coffin for their hopes of opening a casino.

Many Vietnamese billionaires had hoped that the Ministry of Finance (MOF) would loosen the conditions for casino projects when it compiled the draft decree on casino business management.

And indeed, when compared with the 2012 version, some of the requirements have been eased in the latest version submitted to the National Assembly’s Standing Committee. The provisions that the casinos’ area must not exceed 3 percent of the total area of the complex have been excised, as have the limitations of 2,000 machines and 180 gaming tables.

Higher capital investment & operating experience required

Nevertheless, the latest version of the draft has set up higher hurdles on an investors’ financial abilities. Any project developer will have to commit capital of $4 billion at least, and will only receive an investment certificate after disbursing 50 percent of those funds.

In other words, investors will only be granted licenses after they spend $2 billion to implement the committed projects.

Analysts now say that the project drawn up by the Vietnamese Tuan Chau Group and Australian ISC Corporation for a casino in Quang Ninh Province may never see the light of day. This despite the research ISC has already carried out with the blessing of provincial officials, and the fact that the joint venture has made it known that they can pay up to $7 billion for the project.

Their problem can be attributed to another provision of the draft decree – that eligible candidates for registering casino projects must have at least 10 years of experience in running casinos.

Six small casinos have been opened in Vietnam so far, in the provinces of Bac Ninh, Lang Son, Quang Ninh and the city of Hai Phong. However, no Vietnamese businessman has had the requisite 10 years of experience.

One businessman warned that the requirement on outlaying $2 billion before being granted an investment license would challenge investors. No casino now operational in Vietnam, including the Ho Tram casino in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province, can meet the requirement. Investors of the biggest casino project in Vietnam so far have spent only $530 million, or 12.5 percent of the registered capital.

Vietnamese nationals still not allowed to gamble

But the overriding disappointment to most potential investors is the stipulation that Vietnamese will still be prohibited from entering casinos.

Senior executives of Las Vegas Sands, the US casino group, raised two questions while visiting Quang Ninh Province last year: when the essential elements of the infrastructure be completed, and when would the legal framework on casino management be laid down.

After hearing the answer that the draft legal documents would still need the National Assembly’s ratification, the senior executives left.

Quang Ninh is not the only province trying to lure casino projects with foreign investors. Minister of Planning and Investment Bui Quang Vinh said he has received proposals to develop 10 casino projects in 10 different provinces.

Vietnam Business News

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