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Communist Vietnam May Open Up Gambling to Citizens


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Under the rule of the Communist party, Vietnamese citizens are not allowed to gamble in their homeland's casinos. Although the country actually houses several casinos, these facilities are designated for foreign tourists alone; it is against the law for natives to wager money there. That law may change, however, as the Vietnamese government searches for ways to boost tourism and prevent the outflow of its currency to foreign countries.

Vietnamese Government: Protecting the People

The Vietnamese government banned casino gambling with the intent of protecting its citizens. Devastating social problems like crime and addictive gambling have indeed been linked to the presence of casinos in large cities. The catch, however, is that Vietnamese citizens still want to gamble and have been seeking other outlets to do so. One popular destination is neighboring Cambodia.

Sources estimate that approximately 3,000 people cross the Vietnamese border each day just to wager money in Cambodia, where the activity is legal.

When Vietnamese citizens spend their money in other nations' casinos, they stimulate other nations' economies instead of their own. To keep revenue at home, the Vietnamese government has proposed a test program in which qualifying citizens would be allowed to patronize casinos in Quang Ninh, a city east of Hanoi. If this proposal is enacted, it could lead to a major revolution in the way the gaming industry is governed in the country.

The Quang Ninh Proposal

Quang Ninh (Northeastern coast of Vietnam)Vietnam has six casinos which are enjoyed by tourists fromChina, Taiwan, and elsewhere: three in the province of Quang Ninh, one in Hai Phong, one in Da Nang, and one inLao Cai. The newest casino is located in Quang Ninh nearHalong Bay, the country's most popular tourist site. Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung recently visited the site and reviewed the country's proposal to allow Vietnamese citizens to gamble there. If the plan is approved, it will be the first time citizens have been allowed to patronize casinos in their own country.

Before this plan can be enacted, the country's National Assembly must approve it. According to the government's vice chairman, Uong Chu Luu, an intensive study of other nations' casino management experiences must be completed before the plan will be considered. The possibility of Vietnamese citizens gambling in their own country exists somewhere down the road, but logistically it will be some time before this idea comes to fruition.

Current Punishment for Casino Gambling in Vietnam

Although Vietnam daydreams of opening gambling to its citizens, the hard truth is that the activity is still illegal and punishable by law. In fact, a new law is set to take effect this fall to punish natives who gamble. As of Oct. 1, any citizen who partakes of the illegal activity will face a fine of 100 million dong, the equivalent of about $4,750 USD. Any business owner who allows Vietnamese citizens to partake of gambling will face a fine of 200 million dong, the equivalent of about $9,500 USD. Before gambling conditions improve for the Vietnamese, it appears they will get worse.

Performer Charged With Illegal Gambling

Kim Tu Long, a Vietnamese musician and performer who won the government-granted “Meritorious Artist” title for his artistry, garnered attention recently when he was caught taking part in an illegal gambling ring after an evening performance. On June 26, police discovered Long and 26 other people playing card games on a barge and arrested the entire lot, seizing close to VND 500 million. Long posted bail and is currently under investigation.

The Grand at Ho Tram Strip

The Grand Ho Tram Strip (Vietnam)While natives get arrested for illegal gambling, tourists from other countries freely enjoy the activity in the casinos of Vietnam. The gambling halls are by no means premier vacation destinations, but the experience they offer guests is improving with time. Vietnam's first full-fledged gambling resort, the Grand at Ho Tram Strip, opened in July of 2013. By far the country's largest gambling facility, Ho Tram offers 35 table games, 614 gaming machines, and 541 guest rooms. A second phase will add on another 500 rooms and a golf course to create a destination vacation resort much like those found in Las Vegas and Macau.

Officials have high hopes for the new casino and the winds of change it represents in Vietnam's gambling landscape. Resort director Colin Pine said he believes the opening of this facility to be part of a “new era of tourism” for the country. Hospitality representative John Webb stated on the day of the casino's opening that “a little piece of history starts today.”

Critics Express Doubt Over Vietnam's Viability as a Gaming Destination

Ben Lee (Co-manager at IGamiX)Officials would like to see their country's tourism industry take off with the expansion of Vietnamese casinos, but critics have expressed doubt over the country's viability as a world-class gaming destination. Ben Lee, co-manager at IGamiX Management in Singapore, has said that the gaming environment in Vietnam is not quite right for mass market appeal at this time. One reason for this is the lackluster atmosphere. Since locals are not permitted to enter, the environment lacks a certain “buzzy” energy. This lack of energy is never a problem for large casino markets where the natives are allowed to enter, such as Las Vegas and Macau.

Amruta Karambelkar, an India-based scholar, recently commented toVietweek that Vietnam's casino model is not as thoughtfully constructed as the casinos of Singapore. If Vietnam does hope to become a vacation destination on par with Las Vegas, it will face tough competition from major Asian markets. Two of Asia's most successful markets at this time are the casino industry of Manila, which recently opened the brand new Solaire Casino and Resort, and world-renowned Macau.