Jackpot gambling to remain a foreign affair: Finance Ministry

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Vietnam's Ministry of Finance may continue to prohibit locals from entering jackpot gambling centers that are situated in deluxe resorts and hotels, Dau Tu newspaper reported.

Jackpot gambling centers differ from casinos in that all gambling takes place on computerized gaming machines.

Two weeks earlier, the Finance Ministry posted a draft decree that outlined the conditions of the new jackpot center policy on its official website.

The decree, which had allegedly been sent to the prime minister for review, stipulated that each operating license would be granted for a maximum of 10 years to a single resort.

It stressed that only five-star resorts that are capable of attracting large numbers of foreign gamblers would be eligible for gambling center licenses, according to Dau Tu

Nguyen Mai, a foreign investment consultant, said that the government should not allow companies to open too many gambling centers as many of the existing centers closely resemble casinos, adding that there should be restrictions preventing Vietnamese to enter.

"From the authorities' perspective, this isn't the right time to open these centers to locals, since it would require a revision of the existing criminal code," said attorney Tran Thi Ngoc Linh. 

"On the other side of the issue, permitting Vietnamese to enter jackpot gambling zones creates another authorized form of entertainment and allows businesses a new avenue for attracting customers," she said.

Many have argued that Vietnam should legalize jackpot gambling so that gaming revenues won't be lost to neighboring countries. Additionally, legalizing jackpot gambling would cut down on illegal gambling operations.

Last year, the prime minister asked the Ministry of Finance to prepare a draft decree that would regulate gambling centers, but does not mention casinos, according to VnEconomy.

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Mai argued that the proposed regulations would not be strict enough to prevent many companies from entering the business.

Meanwhile, Linh said that they are clearer and stricter than those set forth in the government's 2003 decree, which allowed four-star resorts in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and three-star destinations in outlying provinces to open gambling centers.

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