In preparation for a full reopening of international borders, some Vietnamese provinces are proposing to build brand new casinos in an attempt to lure in new tourists after years of economic uncertainty in the tourism sector.
The central province of Khanh Hoa is looking into the feasibility of building a casino on Hon Tre Island of Nha Trang, while Danang is proposing a similar venture at Sun World Ba Na Hills.
Binh Thuan province, meanwhile, has also proposed a new casino for the Ocean Valley tourist area in Phan Thiet city. The proposal refers to a 1,000-hectare land plot close to the sea with 5-star international resorts and entertainment, golf courses, townhouses, and villas.
The Ministry of Finance (MoF) reported to the government that only the Khanh Hoa and Danang projects currently have advantages in tourism development and financial capacity, while the Binh Thuan initiative should not be included in the proposal list.
The ministry assessed that although Binh Thuan has fast tourism growth, international visitors to the locality is not likely to be high enough anytime soon, and the area mainly depends on domestic tourists. Transport infrastructure is also deemed not good enough for such a venture.
In Danang, Sun World Ba Na Hills’ investor has poured nearly $700 million into the project. Only the small-scale Silver Shores casino currently operates effectively in the city.
The Hon Tre Island development in Nha Trang, meanwhile, has already seen investment of more than $1 billion in a range of facilities such as hotels, entertainment services, golf courses, and convention centres.
Casino business expert Ha Ton Vinh agreed with the MoF’s report, adding that casino businesses in Vietnam have not been profitable for a long time. Post-pandemic, casino projects should be more carefully considered. “One more unfeasible project would bring only disappointment for investors, the entertainment sector, and the whole economy,” Vinh told VIR.
Vietnam now boasts eight official casinos in Haiphong, Quang Ninh, Lao Cai, Ba Ria-Vung Tau and Kien Giang. Casinos on Phu Quoc Island in Kien Giang province and Van Don in Quang Ninh province have been utilising a pilot for Vietnamese people to play since 2019. The pilot is due to end this year, but with closed borders and low visitor numbers, the MoF has proposed an extension to the pilot for nationals to play in the casinos until 2024.
Data from the MoF and Kien Giang People’s Committee showed that, for the first nine months in 2021, the total number of visitors to the Phu Quoc casino decreased by 27 per cent compared to 2020 and 45 per cent compared to 2019. Due to border closures, international visitor numbers plummeted by 72 per cent compared to 2020 and 90 per cent compared to 2019.
Trang Bui, general manager of C&W Vietnam, assessed that the country had already been struggling to attract repeat tourists for many years before the pandemic, especially in the entertainment sector.
“Tour programmes for European and North American tourist groups usually last about two weeks and consist of visiting famous spots from the north to the south, or vice versa. After the tour, these groups rarely come back, as a two-week tour is usually enough for sightseeing. Part of the group of repeat visitors may be working experts or overseas Vietnamese returning to visit relatives,” Trang told VIR.
However, the trend of one-time travel could be gradually changing. More tourist destinations are being expanded and the government wants to increase investment in tourism-related industries, in which allowing a pilot to open a casino in the country for Vietnamese is a significant policy.
“Pilots allowing Vietnamese citizens to legally gamble in a strict regulatory environment will be a step closer for Vietnam’s integration into the global economy as well as international standards. Foreign investors will therefore be eyeing the sector and this entertainment form will be an important factor to attract repeat tourism,” added Trang.