Vietnam is readying to liberalize its gambling industry and allow citizens to enter betting venues throughout the country. That has international gaming operators and casino companies keeping close tabs on developments in the Socialist Republic.

Vietnam gambling Nguyen Xuan Phuc

Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc is prepared to expand gambling across the country, but only to those with adequate money. (Image: Zing VN)

Last December, a government decree was approved to allow locals to play games of chance inside licensed facilities. The decision to allow Vietnamese residents to gamble was welcomed news to gaming entities that have been monitoring the developments.

Vietnam is home to nearly three dozen gaming establishments, but only one full-scale casino-style property. Located 75 miles east of Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam’s largest city, the Grand Ho Tram Strip Resort sits on the coast of the South China Sea.

Jones Lang LaSalle, a global real estate investment management firm, says multiple casino operators are now actively interested in possibly investing in Vietnam and joining Grand Ho Tram in developing full resorts. When all phases of Ho Tram are complete, total costs will exceed $4.2 billion.

Grand Ho Tram is the first of up to five resorts allowed to be developed along the 1.3 mile Ho Tram beachfront. One integrated casino resort license remains up for grabs, but bidders must commit to a $2 billion minimum investment.

More Information Needed

Aside from the remaining mega resort permit, gaming manufacturers are looking to partner with hotels across the nation that are interested in adding slot terminals to their properties.

But to date, details are scant on the new gaming decree. Everything from licensing and tax regulations, to what games are allowed, remain hazy.

What is known, is that Vietnamese citizens will need to show proof of income prior to being granted access to a gambling facility.

Reports out of Asia suggest locals will need to have an income of at least VND10 million ($443) per month in order to gamble. That will exclude the majority of the country’s nearly 93 million residents, as the average monthly wage is around $150 a month.

However, the economy in Vietnam is growing. Predominantly an agriculture civilization, in recent decades Vietnam has successfully ventured into high-tech industries like information technology, and made great advancements in manufacturing.

It’s also now the third-largest oil producer in Southeast Asia.

Next Best Thing?

Asia is the hottest gambling continent in the world. Macau has become the world’s richest gambling hub, and Japan is set to end its prohibition on commercial casinos and issue two integrated resort licenses. Las Vegas Sands and MGM Resorts are the frontrunners for the coveted projects, both pledging as much as $10 billion each.

Regardless of which companies win in Japan, multiple interested conglomerates will undoubtedly be left out. In addition to Sands and MGM, Wynn, Caesars, Galaxy Entertainment, Melco, and Hard Rock have all expressed interest.

For those that aren’t initially chosen in Japan, Vietnam might present a formidable second option. At $2 billion, total investment would be roughly a quarter of what will likely be required in Land of the Rising Sun.

Of course, Japan is a much richer country, per capital income totaling $43,000 compared to just $7,000 in Vietnam. But Japan’s governing body is expected to place a substantial casino entrance fee on its citizens, rumored to be as much as $100 per visit.