Gambling prolongs human life, according to the US Central Intelligence Agency. At least, that’s the conclusion we decided to draw from figures in the CIA’s latest World Factbook that put the gaming enclave of Macau second only to Monaco in terms of the longevity of its residents. Macau residents live to an average 84.43 years, well behind Monaco’s average span of 89.69 years, but both jurisdictions are known for their casino businesses. And Singapore, Asia’s second-hottest casino destination, came fourth on the CIA’s tally, further cementing the casino/octogenarian connection.
So why, we wonder, would Vietnam (128th on the CIA list) be putting up any barriers to becoming the next great Asian casino hub? On March 16, the country’s Minister of Planning and Investment Bui Quang Vinh fired a warning shot across the bow of international casino operators looking to launch projects in Vietnam. VietNamNet Bridge quoted Vinh thusly: “Only investors who accept Vietnamese laws will be able to do business in Vietnam.” Vinh’s comments came in response to questions about whether foreign investors would be willing to sink billions into Vietnamese casino projects if only tourists are allowed to gamble. Las Vegas Sands, which has been pursuing projects in Vietnam’s two major cities, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, is thought to be the most strident advocate for allowing locals to join in the fun.
But Vinh is unmoved by such desires. So long as Vietnamese law prohibits locals from entering the casinos, there is no room for negotiations: Sheldon Adelson can either love Vietnam as it is or leave it alone. Vinh underscored this fact by noting that Vietnam hadn’t asked Sands to build anything in their major cities. “In principle, Vietnam has only accepted to call for the investment in a big scale casino project in Phu Quoc Island.” That said, Vinh suggested the recently proposed casino in the Van Don Economic Zone in Quang Ninh was in line with the government’s mindset because it was in a coastal economic zone that was ripe for tourism, provided the casino was accompanied by hotel and entertainment facilities. And presumably a few shuffleboard lanes (or their regional equivalent) so the area’s senior citizens will have some active way of whiling away their extended twilight years.