Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Vietnamese will be allowed to gamble in approved casinos and under certain conditions, in a three-year pilot project announced by the government on January 19.

People over 21 years old with a regular monthly income of at least 10 million dong (US$443) will be allowed to use the casinos, the government said in a decree that will come into effect on March 15.

To receive government approval, the casinos must be part of an entertainment and hotel complex project with investment capital of at least US$2 billion, half of which must have been disbursed, and comply with several other requirements, it said.

Vietnamese are passionate gamblers, from clandestine card games to bets on European soccer with underground bookies, but the handful of casinos operating in the country now are strictly foreigners-only.

Three years after the first project opens to Vietnamese, the government will review the decree and decide whether to keep it.

A change in legislation could make Vietnam an attractive bet for big gaming companies such as Las Vegas Sands, Genting, Nagacorp and Penn National Gaming, which have expressed interest, should locals be allowed to take part.

The appeal is much to do with Vietnam’s demographics and its location, just a few hours from many Asian capitals and within easy reach of wealthy Chinese, who provide the lion’s share of gaming revenue.

There are fewer than 10 casinos in operation in the country. Only foreign passport holders can enter and gamble there.