One of Macau's top casino junket operators, a Vietnamese investment group and Hong Kong property-to-jewellery conglomerate Chow Tai Fook Enterprises will team up to develop a $4 billion casino resort in Vietnam, companies involved in the project said.
The resort, to be located in the central province of Quang Nam, is headed by Vietnam-based VinaCapital and will forge ahead despite a ban on gambling by Vietnamese citizens that has deterred other big international operators.
Casino operators in Macau, the world's biggest gambling hub, have been shifting to other Asian locales in search of more lucrative growth prospects as revenues in the southern Chinese territory have plummeted.
Macau's Suncity confirmed its involvement in the project while VinaCapital confirmed the participation of Chow Tai Fook Enterprises, which replied in an email that it had no comment and was conducting preliminary studies. The government has set a minimum capital investment of $4 billion for large casino resorts.
Genting Bhd's Genting Malaysia Berhard pulled out of the project in 2012 due to the local gambling restrictions, and Las Vegas Sands Corp Chairman Sheldon Adelson said he would invest in a multibillion dollar resort in the country if the prohibition is eased.
The Vietnamese government is mulling changing legislation to allow local residents to gamble but has yet to come up with a concrete plan, meaning the casino project may initially rely on business from tourists and locals with foreign passports.
Vietnam's location, near many Asian capitals and within easy reach of wealthy Chinese who provide the lion's share of the region's gaming revenue, gives it the potential for annual gaming revenues of $3 billion should the laws be loosened, industry analysts and executives say.
China's crackdown on corruption is keeping wealthy mainland gamblers away from Macau's 35 casinos, while other Asian destinations are rolling out the red carpet and offering anonymity.
Suncity, which lures wealthy gamblers to Macau's glitzy casinos, arranging credit and accommodation, has been developing its base in the Philippines, assigning hundreds of local staff in Manila.
Vietnam's landmark casino project Ho Tram, about two hours by car from Ho Chi Minh City, has benefited from slowing revenues in Macau, as have five small Vietnamese properties which make most of their revenue from Chinese gamblers, say Vietnamese casino executives.
Chow Tai Fook Enterprises, an affiliate of Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Group, the world's largest jewellery retailer by stock market value, has committed to work on casino resorts in Brisbane, Australia, and South Korea.