Gambling in Vietnam is an exciting topic for all tourists & foreign investors. Vietnam has come a long way since its troubled past and managed to become one of the world’s highest rates of economic growth countries. But in Vietnam, gambling is illegal as it has been for centuries.
The gambling war
Gambling is taken very seriously in Vietnam, with the practice almost entirely banned for Vietnamese citizens; only foreign tourists can use the opulent casino resorts of the country. Until the late 20th century, the only exception is the state-run lottery, which is hugely popular across the country.
The government began slowly legalizing gambling to fight illegal gambling while cracking down on major illegal gambling rings. Those caught operating illegal gambling dens or online casinos often get sentences of up to two years, even though sentences can extend far beyond these if links to lending sharks or organized crime are established.
In 2017, they shut down an online gambling ring, which was supposed to be worth US $89 million.
The government also shuts down a US $420 million gambling ring in March 2018 involving two senior officials from the government and some 90 others (including various government officials).
In September 2018, leaders of an illegal online sports betting ring were sentenced to nine years in jail; the operation was worth US $26 million.
Besides, during the 2018 World Cup, there are many pawn shops popping up, whose only purpose was to serve local gamblers. It is estimated that the black market gambling industry is worth billions of dollars.
The Vietnamese government has also incorporated the issue into its foreign policy, because they are not content with controlling gambling within its borders, this movement taking a hard line with its more carefree neighbors.
The issue was a problem with Vietnam’s already uncomfortable relationship with Cambodia. With the sole intention of visiting these casinos, 3,600 Vietnamese are thought to travel to Cambodia every day.
A change of mind
Capitalism forces are beginning to expose the chinks against gambling in Vietnam’s legislative armour. In May 2012, it was reported that Hanoi’s Ministry of Finance allegedly supported legalizing sports betting, hoping to make football betting legal by 2016, with all the “profits” proceed going to the nation’s sports development program.
The country is also swayed by its more successful neighbors, with Singapore and Macau demonstrating how a well – regulated casino industry can transform the fortunes of a nation.
In 2017, Vietnam began to change with eight casinos open to foreign passport holders and investors seeking to open the more extensive domestic customer base immediately. Locals are allowed to enter casinos as part of a three – year experiment if they can prove a monthly income of more than 10 million Dong (US$449) And a one million dong entry tax is charged. Also, in 2017, the country announced plans to legalize betting on sports.
But the real movement began to show on June 14, 2018, when a bill legalizing sports betting was passed by the National Assembly, with government oversight. This bill followed a decree in 2017 that legalized betting on international soccer games, horse races and greyhound races.
Players must be at least 21 years old, with a minimum bet set at 1000 dong and a daily maximum of 1 million Dong. Players who wish to enter a casino must also be at least 21 years of age, have their family’s permission to do so and have no criminal record.
The casino race
To qualify for casino licenses, foreign investors are required to invest more than $ 2 billion. And the Grand Ho Tram was the largest hotel-casino in Vietnam since 2017. Philip Falcone controls it and it was opened in 2013. As of 2017, the US$ 1 billion building has a 550-room hotel, a golf course designed by Greg Norman, and a second hotel tower under construction.
Construction began in 2018 along a three kilometers (2 miles) stretch of coastline in central Vietnam, where it is set to open the country’s largest casino. Suncity Group Holdings Ltd of Macau $ 4 billion invested in the Hoiana project, covering nearly 1,000 hectares (2,500 acres), including shops, restaurants, golf courses and water parks. VinaCapital, a Vietnamese investment and real estate company, and the VMS Investment Group based in Hong Kong will also hold similar ownership interests in the Hoiana project.
In 2018, two other casinos were under construction, one in Van Don – Quang Ninh‘s northern province and one on the island of Phu Quoc. These are part of the pilot project to enable local people to enter casinos. The Van Don is planned to open in 2019 and SunCity will also manage it.
As the company is the sole investor and has developed related facilities on Phu Quoc, Vingroup is assigned to manage the pilot project scheduled for launch on Phu Quoc Island from 2019.
The resort and entertainment complex of the company has been completed and is awaiting an official license to run the casino business, which, according to a source in the company, is scheduled to start up early next year. The casino opening schedule was originally scheduled last December. In Vietnam, the process of issuing casino licenses requires several steps, such as investment and business operations.
Vietnamese people who want to use the casinos have to be over 21, have a monthly income of more than 10 million Dong ($ 427) and have no criminal record. But players will also have to pay a $ 50 entry fee and buy a $ 1,100 monthly permit.
Seven casino projects have been licensed for operation in Vietnam, but only foreigners are allowed:
- Doson in the city of Haiphong.
- Aristo International Hotel & Casino in Lao Cai.
- Phoenix International Club in Bac Ninh.
- Crown International Club in Danang.
- Grand Ho Tram Strip in Ba Ria-Vung Tau
- Loi Lai Casino and Royal International Gaming Club in Quang Ninh.
There are also 3 projects that are under construction or awaiting operating licenses.
Laguna Lang Co in Hue.
- Nam Hoi An in Quang Nam Province, and
- Corona Resort & Casino on Phu Quoc Island.
Investors from Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore and Vietnam have attracted these projects.
The real question, however, is whether Vietnam is prepared for a large and comprehensive infrastructure for gambling. Many still see gambling as a social ill, though the number of people subscribing to this more traditional ideal is shrinking by the day.