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Liberal casino rules sought to help Vietnam tourism
Publication Date : 22-10-2012
Hoteliers from Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City have raised concerns about the draft decree on casino management that the Finance Ministry submitted to the National Assembly Standing Committee on October 8.
The draft decree states that only foreigners and overseas Vietnamese holding foreign passports are allowed to enter the casinos.
Also, only five-star hotels would be allowed to open casinos, compared to current regulations, which allow four-star hotels in Ho Chi Minh City and three-star hotels in other cities to have casinos.
Current regulations allow 75 machines for each four-star hotel and 100 machines for each five-star hotel.
According to the Ho Chi Minh City's Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, more than 10 hotels in Ho Chi Minh City have licences to operate casinos, including the four-star hotels Duxton and De Nhat and the five-star Rex, Majestic, Caravelle, Sheraton Saigon Hotel & Towers, Equatorial and Movenpick.
Tao Van Nghe, general director of the Rex Hotel, told Thoi Bao Kinh Te Sai Gon (Saigon Economic Times), that the five-star standard was determined according to service quality, not the number of rooms. "Thus, there are many five-star hotels with fewer rooms than lower-grade hotels."
Dang Huy Hai, deputy general director of the 533-room New World Hotel, said the Government should allow four-star hotels to carry on with their casino service, saying there was no major difference in service quality between these two kinds of hotels.
He said authorities should take a more liberal view of casino services and consider it a way to attract tourists.
Tourism and trade centres with international air gateways like Ho Chi Minh City should build a casino-tourism-entertainment complex to lure visitors, stimulating tourism development, he added.
Under the proposed decree, the Finance Ministry said that investors must have at least US$4 billion worth of capital and 10 years of experience in tourism management to be allowed to open casinos in Vietnam.
Also, investors would receive an operation licence when they complete construction on a tourism, service and entertainment complex where the casino is located.
They are also required to have brand-new machines with adequate origins and technical certificates at their venues.
As for whether Vietnam should be more open to casinos, many experts support the idea but warn that administrative authorities should be cautious.
Le Dang Doanh, a renowned economist from Hanoi, advised the Government of Vietnam to ensure that casino operations remain under the authorities' close scrutiny.
Casinos are complicated businesses, even though they bring in huge profits. Even developed Singapore has failed to adequately prevent the negative societal effects of gambling, said Doanh.
He asked authorities to learn from the lessons gained at Do Son Casino in the northern city of Hai Phong, where local gamblers have offered bribes so they could play. However, many have ended up losing all of their property.
Doanh added that the casinos should only be located on islands such as Phu Quoc in southern Kien Giang Province and Van Don in northern Quang Ninh Province.
"It's not an appropriate move to put a casino near cultural and political centres, or in areas with high population density," he said.
Meanwhile, Professor Nguyen Mai, the former deputy chairman of the State Committee for Cooperation and Investment, who supports casino operations in Vietnam, said the country should limit the number of casinos.