Deluxe hotels fear cutbacks on gambling business

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Many deluxe hotels are worried they will have to reduce the number of gambling machines they currently operate because they fail to match the ratio of rooms to machines required by a draft decree recently issued by the Finance Ministry.

The draft decree says that hotels can have just one machine for every five guest rooms while current regulations allow each five-star hotel to have a maximum of 100 machines.

Some five-star hotels, however, have less than 500 rooms but approximately 100 machines, thesaigontimes.vn reported Wednesday.

According to Tao Van Nghe, CEO of Ho Chi Minh City-based five star Rex hotel, the number of gambling machines in his hotel has exceeded the draft decree's permitted number.

"So what should we do with the excessive machines?" Nghe wondered in an interview with thesaigontimes.vn.

Echoing Nghe, Dang Huy Hai, deputy manager of the New World hotel in HCMC said the government should put a cap on the total number of gambling machines instead of a ratio so that hotels do not need to ask for another license to build more rooms.

The draft decree also has four-star hotels worried by saying that only five-star hotels and resorts are eligible for licenses to operate gambling machines.

Existing regulations, in effect since 2003, allow four-star hotels in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City as well as the three-star destinations in other cities and provinces to offer the service.

Hai said four-star hotels should not be banned from having gambling machines since the service quality between them and their five-star counterparts is not very different.

The hotel managers expressed their concerns after many members of the National Assembly Standing Committee in a conference on Monday agreed with Finance Ministry's draft decree.

The ratio of rooms to gambling machines should be further reduced or the government should impose a limit to avoid large numbers of machines at every establishment, said committee member Phung Quoc Hien.

The VnExpress newswire reported that Minister of Finance has said all three and four-star hotels will have one year since the law takes effect to upgrade and get new licenses because only five-star or deluxe destinations can have gambling machines, VnExpress reported.

The decree, expected to take effect next year, continues the existing policy of allowing only people with foreign passports to use the gambling machines.

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Vietnam has allowed the installation of computerized gambling machines since 1992, and there are 43 establishments that have installed them.

Their revenues have increased by 10-15 percent annually, reaching VND5 trillion (US$240 million) in 2011, government statistics show.

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