Casinos plan in Vietnam’s proposed SEZs gets mixed reactions

Casinos plan in Vietnam’s proposed SEZs gets mixed reactions

by Nguyen Thi Thuy Anh, Zhang Jianhua

QUANG NINH, Vietnam, March 25 (Xinhua) — The plan to allow casinos and other forms of leisure to operate in special economic zones (SEZs) that are proposed to be build in three provinces in Vietnam has been met with mixed reactions.

“Having casinos in Vietnam has both good and bad sides, which require thorough consideration of the government,” said Nguyen Thi Ngoc Anh, a 27-year-old shopkeeper in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi.

“Casinos and other forms of leisure would be good for the country’s development because these would attract more foreign investors and tourists. But on the other hand, opening more casinos would lead to many consequences, including social evils and waste of money,” Ngoc Anh said.

The three SEZs envisioned by the government would be located in Van Don in Quang Ninh province, Van Phong in south central Khanh Hoa province, and Phu Quoc in southern Kien Giang province.

During an international conference on SEZ development held in Vietnam’s northeastern Quang Ninh province late last week, Quang Ninh provincial authorities expressed their plan of turning its Van Don District into an SEZ with casinos and recreation complex as its major components.

In his remarks during the conference, Vu Tien Loc, president of Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that the Van Don SEZ would have a world-class casino to cater to international players.

Two years ago, Quang Ninh provincial authority held a seminar to discuss the building of a casino in the province. The project was given the green light by the Vietnamese Politburo and asked the provincial government to present a detailed proposal.

“One significant issue that needs careful study is whether local Vietnamese residents would be allowed to gamble in the casinos,” Loc said, adding that the Quang Ninh authorities should consult not only with experts and investors but also with the local residents.

Pham Minh Chinh, secretary of Quang Ninh Provincial Party Committee, has emphasized the willingness of authorities in Quang Ninh in turning Van Don into a casino and recreation complex, as well as a center for Internet technology.

Chinh said that if this project materializes, Van Don would become synonymous to casinos and leisure facilities. “This is the goal of Quang Ninh and Van Don authorities,” said Chinh.

But Pham Van Quang, 55, a director of an import-export company in Hanoi, told Xinhua that it is not easy for Vietnam alone to build world-class casinos and the country would need foreign investors and expertise.

Quang said, however, that eventually Vietnam should have the expertise to manage and operate casinos and other leisure facilities.

Quang also said that Vietnamese people should not be allowed to gamble at casinos because the government may not be able to control the number of Vietnamese people gambling in the facilities.

“Allowing Vietnamese people to gamble at casinos would eventually cause social problems,” Quang said.

Nguyen Truong Son, chairman of Vietnam’s Bao Son Group, a diversified business conglomerate, told Xinhua that there should be only two casinos in Vietnam, with each in Van Don SEZ in Quang Ninh and Phu Quoc SEZ in southern Kien Giang province.

Son said casino should be only a part in the recreation complex in a SEZ. The complex should include other forms of entertainment and shopping.

“With the strong willingness of Quang Ninh authority, after having a specific mechanism, the establishment of Van Don SEZ could be fulfilled within three to five years,” Son said.

A representative of American chamber of commerce (Amcham) in Vietnam told the Quang Ninh conference that there are now several casinos in several cities in Vietnam but local residents are not allowed to play there.

The Amcham representative said that two to three major casinos would be enough for Vietnam but she added that there should be a tight legal framework and strict management in controlling casino operations in Vietnam.

Ngoc Anh, a Hanoi shopkeeper, said that since many Vietnamese people often go to Cambodia to gamble and lose foreign currencies, if there will be casinos inside Vietnam, then their foreign currencies can be kept in the country instead of being spent in Cambodia.

A Vietnamese law, the Decision 32/2003/QD-TTg issued by Vietnamese prime minister in February 2003 only allows foreigners and overseas Vietnamese to play at electronic gaming facilities in Vietnam.

In addition, Vietnamese government’s Decree 86/2013/ND-CP regulating operation of electronic gaming service for foreigners, dated July 2013 to replace Decision 32/2003/QD-TTg, stipulates that all five-star or equivalent hotels and resorts are allowed to open electronic gaming services as long as they are in a separate facility and would satisfy security requirements.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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