Vietnam plans casino in UNESCO park; new dog track for Phu Quoc

TAGs: dong van highlands, hà giang, lotteries, Phu Quoc, Vietnam

vietnam-casino-dog-racingWhile Canadian developer ACDL attempts to restart its stalled resort-casino project on Vietnam’s Ho Tram Strip, the country’s northernmost province has proposed building a casino in the Dong Van highlands. Last week, People’s Committee representatives in the province of Hà Giang, which shares a border with the Chinese province of Yunnan, announced a plan to construct a casino, hotels, restaurants and other amusement options which will open to the public by 2020. Thanh Nien News quoted Hà Giang vice chairman Sen Chin Ly as saying the project had the blessing of the country’s prime minister and interested investors should make themselves known.

The 2.7-square-kilometer site on which this entertainment complex is to be erected is somewhat controversial, given that the region has been recognized as a Global Geological Park by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). But deputy PM Nguyen Thien Nhan has praised the project as a way of promoting the park and lifting the local residents out of poverty. The area attracted nearly 400k tourists in 2012, nearly one-third more than the previous year, and over 140k have already made the trek in the first quarter of 2013.

Only foreigners are allowed to visit Vietnamese casinos and this restriction has kept many developers wary of investing in the country. Vietnam once had high hopes for building a casino complex on Phu Quoc island off the coast of Cambodia, but all the foreign developers that originally expressed interest eventually walked away from the project. Undeterred, Phu Quoc has just announced it will open a dog racing track, only the second of its kind in the country, on April 20.

However, unlike the traditional greyhound track, reports that the Phu Quoc dogs will have to negotiate 12 different types of terrain, which includes crossing bridges, crawling through tunnels, swimming a body of water and negotiating an obstacle course. What’s more, while dog racing is legal in Vietnam, the Phu Quoc track owners intend to discourage betting by not numbering their dogs. Seriously, Vietnam, it’s like you’re not even trying.

Vietnam has some 64 state-owned companies registered to operate lotteries, each of which represents a city or province. Each company prints two million tickets for every weekly drawing, but ticket sales only account for between 20% to 40% of tickets printed. Vietnam Association of Financial Investors general secretary Nguyen Hoang Hai estimates that printing these excess tickets costs the lottery outfits millions of dollars annually.

But there is a method to this madness. The fact that the majority of tickets go unsold means the majority of jackpots go unclaimed, at least, unclaimed by players. Each lottery firm must set aside VND 10b (US $480k) in prize money per week, but unclaimed prizes go straight to the company’s bottom line. Small wonder that Southern Lottery Council chairman Do Quang Vinh claims to have “never heard of any lottery company making losses.”


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