Vietnam Phu Quoc Corona Casino First to Let Locals Gamble, But with Caveats

Posted on: January 22, 2019, 06:00h. 

Last updated on: January 22, 2019, 06:10h.

Residents of Vietnam can now gamble in their own country at a brick-and-mortar casino — at least during a three-year test period — at the newly opened Corona Casino on Phu Quoc Island. But there will be restrictions on who can play. The gaming venue opened on Jan. 19.

Residents of Vietnam can now gamble in the Phu Quoc Corona Casino, but will have to prove a certain level of income in order to play. (Image: Phu Quoc Corona casino)

Along with being a minimum of 21 years old, only those Vietnamese with relatively competitive incomes can enter. They’ll have to pay VNĐ1 million ($43) for a 24-hour pass, according to VietNam News.

But that’s not all: area gamblers will also have to prove their monthly income is at least VNĐ10 million ($431) — and while that may sound exceedingly low to Westerners, it will actually keep most Vietnamese from being able to enter the Corona Casino.

According to the International Monetary Fund, the annual average salary of adults in Vietnam is about $1,800 — or $150 for a month.

In Ho Chi Minh City, the nation’s capital, the monthly average salary was recently counted at VND 10.37 million ($447.46), which is the highest in the country. Meaning the Corona is likely to see mostly city-based players.

On the Up and Up

Salaries in Vietnam are still rising faster than in other nearby economies in Southeast Asia. The average annual growth rate in Vietnam was 20 to 24 percent, compared to 14 to 20 percent in Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Myanmar, and Singapore, according to data from Asian financial services advisors Dezan Shira & Associates.

That promising salary trend and overall economic growth is part of the reason why there is interest by at least one major US gaming company in opening its own casino in Vietnam. A Las Vegas Sands spokesperson said in 2016 that the company “has been interested in Vietnam for years,” according to a report.

But despite Vietnam relaxing the ban on citizens entering a casino, the nation’s authorities still prioritize going after illegal gambling. Last year, an illicit online gambling network and reputed money laundering ring led to the arrest of two government officials, including a top law-enforcement officer. And in 2018, police raided an operation that was allegedly facilitating online sportsbooks.

Seven people were ultimately arrested, and authorities say the network took in over $28 million in bets in less than three months.

Overall, Vietnam has strict laws when it comes to illicit gambling.

Fines can range from a minimum of $215 up to $2160, and prison terms of between three months and seven years can also be determined at sentencing. Those determined to be professional gamblers or repeat offenders are often sentenced the most harshly.

Self-Precluding Location

Given that Phu Quoc — a luxury island in the Gulf of Thailand, situated off the Cambodian coast — is likely to draw only those who can afford that level of vacation getaway, it’s likely that sorting the haves from the have-nots won’t be a major effort.

For those who can afford the trip, information from the Corona Resort and Casino’s website says it features 100 roulette tables, baccarat, blackjack, poker, and 1,000 slot machines. The new venue is also offering three eateries, KTV-karaoke, VIP play facilities, and a private sky casino.

Phase One of the project is estimated to have cost $1 billion. The casino has proposed about 2,000 hotel rooms, coastal villas, a convention center, a theater, shopping mall, water park, spa, amusement park, safari park, golf course, and many restaurants and bars.

Another $1 billion will be spent in a second phase of development. Day-to-day casino operations are overseen by Upffinity Gaming Management, based in the Netherlands.

Elsewhere in Vietnam, last year a gaming license was given to the Laguna Lang Co Resort, whose casino is expected to open in 2022. Once complete, it will feature 500 gaming machines and 50 tables games, in addition to 2,200 villas and apartments, and as many as six five-star hotels.