Vietnam will lift its ban on locals entering its casinos within “two to three years,” according to a speaker at the recent Macao Gaming Show. Augustine Ha Ton Vinh, a self-described advisor to Vietnam’s government, told attendees it was “80% to 90% certain” that Vietnamese residents would eventually be permitted at casinos like The Grand – Ho Tram Strip, which opened this summer but only to tourists or holders of overseas passports. Vinh said the Vietnamese government had “sent a lot of delegations to Macau, Australia and to Singapore to learn best practice” and would likely adopt a Singapore-style entry levy system.
Vietnam’s refusal to allow its residents to partake of casino gambling has been a sore spot for international developers, many of whom have expressed great interest in the Vietnamese market, only to pull back when it became clear the government had no intention of altering their stance anytime soon. In August, the government was said to be considering a pilot project to allow locals into the casinos in the Van Don Economic Zone in Quang Ninh province, and Vinh said a government-commissioned study on the subject was expected to be complete by the middle of next year.
Vienna-based firm Casinos Austria is among the firms that has expressed interest in setting up shop in Quang Ninh. Last week saw the firm’s senior advisor Richard Lehner visit the province, where he told the Quang Ninh People’s Committee he saw great potential in the region and requested permission to conduct a feasibility study. In September, Vietnamese businessman Dao Hong Tuyen also stated his desire to develop a casino project in Quang Ninh as well as a second one on neighboring Tuan Chau island.
Vietnam has also proposed relaxing its strict prohibition against sports betting, but until that magical day arrives, the country’s gamblers face fearsome odds in getting their gamble on. On Wednesday, a court in the city of Hué sentenced 10 individuals to stiff prison terms for betting on football games. La Duc Lan and Huynh Tang Quang each received a decade in stripes for “organizing gambling” and “gambling” after they set up an account with an unspecified online gambling site, then divided it into 10 sub-accounts for use by other bettors until the operation was taken down in October. A third organizer, Vo Linh Nghiem, received a six-year sentence on the same charges, while seven others who merely gambled received sentences of between eight months and three-and-a-half years. Thanh Nien News reported that most of the convicted were owners of local hotels and bars.