Ministry seeks to extend allowing Vietnamese people to gamble at Phu Quoc casino

As a three-year pilot program allowing Vietnamese people to gamble at a casino on Phu Quoc Island in the southern province of Kien Giang is set to finish by the end of this year, the Ministry of Finance has asked for a two-year extension due to the Covid-19 pandemic badly affecting the casino business over the last two years.
Ministry seeks to extend allowing Vietnamese people to gamble at Phu Quoc casino ảnh 1 Illustrative image. (Photo: VNA)

Earlier, the Kien Giang People’s Committee had also asked for the extension.

Deputy Minister of Finance Nguyen Duc Chi told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that the ministry asked for approval from the Politburo to extend the program until the end of 2024.

“The COVID-19 pandemic over the last two years has had a great impact on Vietnam’s production, hospitality and tourism, particularly the casino business,” Chi said, adding that during social distancing, few foreigners could enter Vietnam while Vietnamese people were also restricted from going out except for urgent situations.

“To properly evaluate the effectiveness of the pilot program, it’s necessary to extend the program two more years,” Chi said.

According to the ministry, under the pilot program, the casino on Phu Quoc served 240,560 customers from 2019 to 2021, of which Vietnamese accounted for 65%.

In 2019 and 2020, revenue from casino business grew well, about 9.5% per year. From 2021, due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, revenue dropped sharply. Casino business results in 2021 were a loss of VND1.14 trillion.

The Phu Quoc casino has helped create 2,000 jobs and it has paid VND1.73 trillion (US$71.7 million) in taxes to state coffers.

Local clients have spent VND141 billion ($5.85 million) on entrance tickets.

There are nine casino projects in Vietnam with six small ones in Hai Phong, Quang Ninh, Lao Cai and Da Nang and three major casinos in Hoi An of Quang Nam province, Ho Tram of Ba Ria - Vung Tau province and Phu Quoc of Kien Giang province.

Phu Quoc casino is one of only two casinos open to Vietnamese in a trial program in the country.

The other, located in Van Don district of northern Quang Ninh province, has not been approved for investment.

According to the Ministry of Finance, casino development associated with large-scale general service, tourism, commerce and entertainment zones is appropriate. This includes the pilot program for Vietnamese people to play in casino.

With a cautious view, this pilot program does not affect security, social order and safety, meets the entertainment needs of the people, contributes to increasing state budget revenue, and promotes local socio-economic development. The casino business also creates jobs for local workers.

For many years, Vietnamese citizens were banned from entering casinos.

Prof. Ha Ton Vinh, who advised and proposed allowing Vietnamese people play in casino in the country, said that the proposal to extend the pilot period for two more years at Phu Quoc casino was suitable.

The pilot program brought many benefits, including revenue and data for management to know about casino service users, he said.

“Thanks to the pilot program, the Government will have suitable solutions to strictly manage casino business activities, without disrupting social order. But at the same time, the policy also needs to better meet the needs of investors in large-scale casino complexes,” he said.

"To meet the needs of domestic players, besides Phu Quoc casino, there are still many large-scale casinos across the country that can be piloted for Vietnamese people to play, such as Ho Tram casino or Nam Hoi An casino,” he said, adding that such casino investors also want to receive Vietnamese players.

Vo Chi Thanh, Director of the Institute for Brand Development and Competition, said that there have been many studies evaluating casinos.

“There is an argument that if we do not allow Vietnamese people to play, they will take money abroad to play and there are many consequences,” he said.

"We can learn from the management experience of countries like Singapore to limit the risks of gambling games,” he said.