Vietnam draft bill reduces minimum IR investment to $2 billion

 Vietnam is likely to release a new version of its draft bill legalizing casinos early in 2016, which is expected to halve the minimum investment required in an integrated resort to $2 billion.

Previous drafts of the legislation had required any operators seeking a license to run an IR in the country to commit to a minimum investment of $4 billion. That figure was criticized by many industry experts as being too high.

Augustine Ha Ton Vinh, chairman and CEO of Stellar Group and an advisor to the Vietnamese government on gambling legislation, said the investment won’t need to be all up front, but can be committed in stages.

Vietnam is expected to allow a further three IRs in addition to Ho Tram, which opened in 2013, he said. The locations are likely to be Halong Bay in the north of the country, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, the central coast and on Phu Quoc island in the south of the country.

Speaking at the Macau Gaming Show, he said the new legislation will also set out the terms for locals to be able to gamble in the casinos for the first time. Vietnam loses millions of dollars a year in tax revenue from its residents flocking to Cambodia to the small casinos along the border.

He said there will be a minimum age of 20 for entry into the casinos and any local wishing to gamble will have to prove a minimum income of about $750 a month. The casinos will also charge an entry fee, which is likely to be set at around $50, or $500 for an annual pass, he said.

Vietnamese will be allowed on a pilot basis into one of the resorts, he said, adding he is looking with a government agency at allowing locals to gamble in the Ho Tram resort, which is on the coast near Ho Chi Minh City, on a two-year trial basis.

The latest draft of the long-awaited legislation is currently with the politburo. It is likely to be released by the Ministry of Finance, mostly likely in February, or March.

The license period for the IRs will be about 15 years, he said.