HCM CITY(VNS)— A minimum investment of US$4 billion will be required for opening a casino in Viet Nam, according to a draft decree prepared by the Ministry of Finance.
The ministry is seeking public opinion and expert feedback on the draft decree on management of casinos and e-games services that it has just completed.
The draft decree mentions that e-games with prize money is a type of business that is not encouraged to develop in Viet Nam. Therefore, enterprises engaging in this business would not receive any incentives in taxes and fees.
The draft decree also maintains that only foreigners and overseas Vietnamese (people with foreign passports) can enter casinos in Viet Nam or play e-games that offer prize money.
In comparison with Decision 32/2003/QD-TTg dated 27/2/2003 that dealt with regulations covering businesses engaged in providing e-games with prize money for foreigners, the new decree seems stricter and clearer, some observers say.
It says that only hotels with a 5-star rating or its equivalent with professionally qualified administrators can host e-games with prize money.
It requires that casinos and establishments offering e-games with prize money are fairly isolated from other business areas, have their own entrance, camera system and firefighting equipment.
Gambling areas should not serve food and beverages, the decree stipulates.
While current establishments offering e-games with prize money can maintain their operation, unless they reach the standard of 5-star hotel by 2020, they cannot renew their license.
Furthermore, enterprises planning to establish new casino business should have at least 10 years of relevant experience in organising a recreation complex and at least US$4 billion investment capital.
The investors will also be granted business licenses only when they have completed construction of the recreation complex.
Gambling machines used at casinos must be brand new and tested by relevant authorised agencies.
The finance ministry has suggested that a maximum fine of VND 100 million ($4,760) be fixed for administrative violations of the law relating to the gambling industry in the country.
For many years, the Party and Government have insisted that Vietnamese citizens cannot gamble, because it is a social evil.
However, many people have said that the ban means the State Budget is missing out on a big source of income. Many Vietnamese citizens are going abroad to gamble, they say, suggesting that Vietnamese high income earners are allowed to go to casinos so that "foreign currency bleeding" can be stemmed.
The Finance Ministry has also admitted that in the digital age and the open market, more and more people will try to gamble via the Internet or go abroad.
Meanwhile, there is still lack of detailed regulations on the business of casino and prize-money offering electronic games in Viet Nam.
Senior economist Le Dang Doanh said Viet Nam should participate in the casino business, but the issue needed to be considered thoroughly and strict management ensured to minimise "possible consequences".
This was because the undertaking was profitable but very complicated to control, Doanh told the Tuoi Tre newspaper.
Prof. Nguyen Mai, former Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment, also supported the policy of opening casinos in the country, but stressed the need for regulations to "limit this kind of business". — VNS