Vietnam's Casinos Welcome All (Except Vietnamese)

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 4/15/2015 01:00:00 AM
Macau-Upon-Mekong: Champagne wishes and caviar dreams in Vietnam.
As a longtime supporter of legalizing online gambling Stateside and a follower of the global industry, I am clearly not one of those who disavow the activity over dubious "moral" grounds. It's in human nature to take a wager, and who am I to stop others from doing so when I am not negatively affected? Pretty much the same logic has been adopted by governments all over the world: Why don't we legalize gambling and bolster government revenues in the process? It sounded like a perfectly good strategy--way back when there were still taboos in most places on gambling. The problem, though, is when nearly every government is trying to make money off casinos--it may not work since legalized gambling no longer constitutes an advantage when everywhere lets you do the same..

An interesting (semi-)outlier in this regard is Vietnam. Like its other regional peers, Vietnam has allowed gambling for a number of years now. I guess the last hurdle fell when antiseptic Singapore opened up its casinos. So there a few places left like China where gambling is confined like Macau in the PRC and entry can be limited among, say, Communist Party officials betting using state funds. But, instead of geographic discrimination, Vietnam is, interestingly enough, discriminating by nationality. More interestingly, it is not allowing its own citizens to gamble in Vietnamese casinos. From late last year:
Vietnam is drawing closer to allowing its citizens to gamble in the nation’s casinos as the government tries to boost revenue and compete for regional gaming investment.The finance ministry plans to submit the final draft of a new casino decree to Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung as soon as October, Ngo Van Tuan, head of the department for banking and finance at the ministry, said by telephone in Hanoi yesterday. Approval is likely before the end of the year, he said. The decree is modeled on Singapore’s gaming regulations and would permit Vietnamese to enter local casinos
“There are many Vietnamese who gamble at casinos in Singapore and Cambodia, and it’s obvious that we’ve lost some state revenue here,” said Phan Thi Thu Hien, deputy head of the banking and finance department. “We’ve studied what regional countries have done and think we should do the same. These changes would help increase government income.”

Vietnamese policy makers are seeking to replicate the success of Singapore and Macau in attracting gaming resorts and tourism. Vietnam’s government is grappling with the challenge of spurring an economy that risks missing this year’s growth target of 5.8 percent. The government collected about 250 billion dong ($12 million) of taxes from the five casinos operating in 2012, on gaming revenue of 900 billion dong, state radio reported on its website last week. There are six casinos in operation, with another licensed one yet to start. Only foreign passport holders are permitted to enter and gamble in the casinos.
The new rules will be Singapore-esque in allowing residents entry--but only relatively well-off ones:
Under the draft proposal, Vietnamese who are at least 21 years old, and have “sufficient financial ability” will need to pay an entrance fee to gamble in casinos, according to Hien. The financial-assessment criteria and entrance fees will be specified by the prime minister in separate regulations after the decree’s approval, Hien said. In Singapore, citizens and permanent residents must pay a S$100 ($80) daily levy to enter the casinos, or S$2,000 for an annual pass, in a government effort to deter those who can’t afford to gamble.
Suffice to say that has not happened yet as locals are still restricted from entering casinos in Vietnam, oddly enough. (But some get in by paying off security, but that's not as intended.) I suppose the Communist leadership doesn't want the reckless hedonism of this bourgeois capitalist pastime to pollute the minds of the people. Then again, money may talk louder soon as larger casinos hence larger revenues can be generated--but only by allowing more Vietnamese punters in:
Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has approved a casino project for the country largest island, prompting mixed reactions from industry observers and economists, some of whom are calling on the government to legally allow Vietnamese to gamble in such venues to keep more revenue inside the developing country.

The casino will be located on Phu Quoc Island, a special administrative economic zone and resort in Kien Giang province in the Gulf of Thailand, and be part of a larger investment project consisting of a tourism and entertainment complex/ It will join a handful of casinos already operating in the country that only allow foreign passport holders to legally gamble in them.

Bui Long Quan, a Vietnamese tourism industry expert who says he has seen many groups of Vietnamese tourists in casinos abroad, believes that the project’s planner should take the Vietnamese people into account. “The first benefit of this project is we don’t lose money—not letting the money out of the country, because if we let the Vietnamese go to casinos in Cambodia, Macau or Malaysia or other places, we let the money flow out.”

He said it would be impossible to stop Vietnamese from gambling in casinos in their own country. “Casinos for foreigners mean nothing,” he said, adding that wealthy Vietnamese manage to gamble in the country’s casinos by paying off guards. “So the ban is impossible.” 
I believe it's only a matter of time before these restrictions are limited, and I further believe that the ultimate spur will be the arrival of high-profile foreign-invested casinos. To make the most revenues out of them, they will need to have local patrons.