The southern province of Kien Giang has got the government’s green light for a casino on the tourist island of Phu Quoc.
The casino will be part of a tourist complex that will also have other amusement facilities, the government office has announced, saying that the PM has ordered the investment ministry to collaborate with Kien Giang to study the project.
In a proposal submitted to the government last year, the province’s authorities said the 30,000-square-meter casino would have 200-400 gambling tables and 2,000 gambling machines.
Investors need to bring in a minimum of US$4 billion.
Dinh Khoa Toan, chairman of Phu Quoc People’s Committee, was quoted as saying by Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that a tentative plan for the casino had been announced long ago, but no investor has applied to build one yet.
Originally the province authorities had been seeking foreign investors, but now they expect the government to license a local investor, Huynh Vinh Lac, spokesman for the Kien Giang People’s Committee, said. But he refused to reveal further details about potential investors.
Analysts have hailed the government’s move, telling Thanh Nien that it would boost Phu Quoc’s economy.
Economist Bui Trinh said it is “a sensible decision” since the island needs a new push to develop.
It is “undeniable” that a casino would attract big-spending tourists, and when tourism grows, it would have a knock-on effect on consumer spending and services, while increased public revenues would also result in the development of infrastructure, he said.
Nguyen Van Ngai, another economist, agreed, saying that a casino would give Phu Quoc an opportunity to “brighten up.”
But services around the casino must be developed apace to attract tourists who are not interested in gambling, Ngai said.
The services must be of international quality, competitively priced, and different from casinos in neighboring countries like Cambodia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Singapore, he said.
Phan Dinh Hue, a Ho Chi Minh City-based tourism expert, pointed out that though Phu Quoc, which boasts “beautiful” beaches, and an “amazing” tropical climate, has an international airport and roads running around it, it does not have many luxury hotels.
It also lacks cinemas, outstanding conference or sports centers that can host major events, as well as entertainment services, he said.
Around 600,000 tourists, 55 percent of them foreigners, visited Phu Quoc last year, up 37 percent from the year before, Le Minh Hoang, director of the Kien Giang tourism department, told news website Saigon Times Online last week.
Seven casinos have been licensed in Vietnam, of which six are already open, according to the Ministry of Finance’s latest report.
The country’s laws only allow foreigners and Vietnamese with dual nationality to enter casinos. But the finance ministry last year suggested opening them to Vietnamese residents of legal age.