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Finance ministry proposes allowing Vietnamese to gamble at home

Thursday, August 14, 2014, 11:36 GMT+7

Vietnam’s Ministry of Finance is soliciting feedback from relevant ministries and industries on a draft decree on the gambling business, which suggests allowing local residents meeting certain criteria to enter the now foreigners-only casinos.

Any Vietnamese above 21 years of age with adequate financial ability will be allowed to gamble at home, the finance ministry said in the draft decree.

In its previous draft versions, the ministry proposed that only international punters and foreign passport holders should be permitted to enter casinos operating in Vietnam.

The Prime Minister will specify conditions Vietnamese punters have to meet to be eligible for gambling in domestic casinos, as well as decide on which gambling venues will be allowed to receive local gamblers, according to the draft decree.

Gamblers will be required to present documents proving they are eligible for gambling before entering a gaming venue, the ministry’s draft decree says, adding that these documents include identity cards in the case of Vietnamese residents and passports and visas for foreigners and overseas Vietnamese.

Lucky punters have the rights to ask casino operators to keep information regarding their winning and prize claiming secret, according to the draft fiat.

Professor Ha Ton Vinh, an expert with knowledge of casino operations, said the ministry’s proposition is a breakthrough as it is the first-ever formal proposal to allow Vietnamese to gamble at home.

Vinh said many other nations also recommend that local residents be allowed to enter casinos, as long as there is tight management on them.

“By permitting Vietnamese to enter casinos, we are following the world trend,” he asserted.

The professor noted, however, that Vietnam must have a clear policy on putting local punters under effective management, especially keeping the low-income earners from the gambling venues.

“In many countries, casinos set very high stakes to limit the number of low-income earner players,” he said.

Minimum investment: $4 billion

The Ministry of Finance said in the draft decree that it will cooperate with the Ministry of Planning and Investment and relevant agencies to work on the casino planning for Vietnam.

The planning must be in accordance with the socio-economic development, national defense and public security plans of the country, the ministry said.

Investors are only permitted to open a casino if it is a unit of a tourism-service-entertainment complex, according to the draft decree.

Besides meeting required investment standards, casino operators must have a minimum registered capital of $4 billion for the gambling venue.

The number of gambling machines and tables casino operators are allowed to equip will be determined by the Prime Minister, based on the scale of their investment. For every $20 million, investors will be able to set up one table and 12 slot machines at their facilities.

Vietnam is home to seven operating casinos, all open to international punters and foreign passport holders only.

The first venue, Do Son Casino, was inaugurated under a pilot program in the northern province of Hai Phong in 1996. Quang Ninh, another northern province, has two casinos, in Mong Cai City and Bai Chay beach resort.

Bac Ninh, Lao Cai, Da Nang and Ba Ria-Vung Tau have a casino each.

The developers of two tourism and entertainment complexes in Phu Quoc and Quang Ninh also have in-principle permission to include casinos in their projects.

In an announcement dated June 24, 2013, the Politburo agreed in principle to the implementation of a deluxe tourism complex in the Van Don Economic Zone in Quang Ninh, which includes a casino.

The Politburo also ordered that “studies be done on the possibility of allowing Vietnamese residents to join gambling activities and report to regulatory authorities.”

Minister of Finance Dinh Tien Dung told a National Assembly Standing Committee meeting on April 17 this year that the government was directing relevant ministries and industries to do research on developing a project to permit Vietnamese punters to gamble in domestic casinos.

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