Vietnam’s Ho Tram Strip resort wins preliminary okay for dedicated airport

vietnam-grand-ho-tram-strip-airportVietnamese authorities have reportedly approved plans for a dedicated airport adjacent to The Grand Ho Tram Strip casino, the country’s only large-scale integrated resort.

On Thursday, Vietnamnet Bridge reported that the Ba Ria-Vung Tau People’s Committee had given preliminary approval to the Ho Tram Project Company Ltd’s proposal to build a specialized airport near the Loc An commune in Ba Ria-Vung Tau province.

The Ho Tram Project Company, which operates the titular resort, says the project is necessary to encourage more tourists to visit the casino. Presently, the closest airport is in Ho Chi Minh City, which is two hours away by car.

The plan still requires the thumbs-up from both the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Transport in order to proceed. The Company claims the airport project, which will span a 200-hectare area, will break even within 50 years of its opening.

The need for more efficient international tourism flow is even more crucial now that Vietnam’s government appears to have reversed its former plans to lift the ban on local residents gambling in casinos.

The Vietnamese government had previously mulled a pilot project that would have gauged the impact of allowing locals to enter casinos. The Ho Tram resort had volunteered itself as the perfect place to perform this experiment but the government never actually got around to pulling that trigger.

The government’s recent about-face on the locals issue has dashed the hopes of international casino operators, many of whom have publicly expressed great interest in setting up shop in Vietnam, but only if the government relaxed its foreigners-only restriction.

Other pitfalls revealed in the most recent draft of Vietnam’s gambling decree is the insistence that would-be operators commit to investing a minimum of $4b to get their projects off the ground. There’d been speculation that the ongoing lack of investor interest had convinced the government to halve this figure, but the government’s stance on this issue appears unmoved.

Vietnam’s proposed gaming tax regime is also giving investors pause. In addition to a 35% tax on gross gaming revenue, operators will face a 10% value added tax and a 20% corporate income tax rate. Hopes remain that the final FINAL version of the decree will walk back some of these deal-breaking requirements.