Two Vietnam casinos will soon be permitted to welcome locals, but those patrons will have to meet minimum income requirements before they can play.

Vietnam casinos Nguyen Xuan Phuc

Vietnam will now let casinos entertain their own citizens, after Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s Communist Party overhauled the law. But the poor can stay home. (Image: primeminister.chinhphu.vn)

The day after Christmas, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc announced that the Vietnamese government was going to allow its own citizens to finally enter certain designated casinos. The Southeast Asian country is home to nearly three dozen gaming facilities, but the law has prevented residents from entering and has allowed only tourists and international travels to place bets.

After years of back-and-forth, Phuc’s Communist Party finally agreed with the Politburo, the country’s principal policymaking committee, that the gambling decree be altered.

Two casinos, one in the Van Don Special Economic Zone and another in the southern resort island of Phu Quoc, are currently under construction. When they open, Vietnamese nationals will be allowed to gamble there, but the casino will first need to make sure each customer has an income of at least $440 per month before granting access.

Following a three-year test period, the government will consider allowing all casinos to welcome locales should the trial run go smoothly.

Law for the Rich

While a monthly income of $440 would be below poverty level in the US, in Vietnam, it represents a substantial salary. The average worker made about $2,200 last year, meaning the vast majority of locals won’t pass the income minimum to enter the casinos.

The government is concerned with problem gambling. Numerous Asian cultures struggle with gaming addiction, but the Vietnamese are especially prone to developing bad habits when it comes to casinos.

“If you don’t gamble, you don’t know how lucky you are,” is an anonymous popular quote in Asia. The strong belief in luck and fate is a driving force that leads many Vietnamese to gamble.

Phuc is taking baby steps in allowing his people to legally gamble at casinos. In addition to placing an income requirement for entry, the two casinos are located outside of the country’s most populated cities.

Gambling Rush

Multiple countries in Asia are currently reviewing or amending their gambling laws. As China continues its crackdown on Macau, nations such as Vietnam and Japan are looking to expand.

In addition to allowing well-to-do Vietnamese into casinos, the new statutes covering gambling in the country will also lessen the minimum investment required for casino companies looking to enter the market. According to VN Express, an online media outlet that covers Vietnam news, the previous requirement of $4 billion has been reduced to $2 billion.

Various international casino companies have expressed interest in building in Vietnam should the government lift its ban on locals. Las Vegas Sands Chairman Sheldon Adelson is one such gaming tycoon. The billionaire has made several visits to Vietnam with members of his development team.

Relying entirely on tourists to support revenues has kept gambling’s biggest players like Adelson away. That could soon change, should the three-year test period be executed smoothly.