A high-ranking banker and a senior economist have urged Vietnam to develop a casino and other hi-end tourism services on the central island of Ly Son and an islet off its coast just a few days after they were connected to the national power grid.
“The 69-hectare Be Island should be set aside for a hi-end entertainment area with five star hotels and casinos to attract tourists for long holiday visits,” said Tran Bac Ha, chairman of Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam.
“I believe that Ly Son can become the silver island of the central region in a near future,” he said at a national conference on the administration and development of the islands in Hanoi on October 1.
Ly Son and Be islands comprise about 10 square kilometers of land that sits 15 nautical miles off the coast of Quang Ngai Province, which is also home to the country's sole refinery, Dung Quat.
They're home to more than 21,000 residents, most of whom work as fishermen and garlic farmers.
Located along the approach to the Dung Quat Economic Zone and the central region, the island plays an important economic and national security role.
Be Island, also known as An Binh Island Commune, sits some 3.5 nautical miles from the main island and is comprised of 69 hectares (170 acres) and more than 500 residents.
At the conference, Ha said an airport should be built on the islands as well as docks for hydroplanes.
Tran Du Lich, head of an advisory group on developing Vietnam’s central coast, called for competent investment in tourism services on the Be Island to avoid small and wasteful projects.
“Relevant authorities should bring in sand to help reclaim portions of the island for tourism development,” he said.
At the conference, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said he would forward the proposals to the central government for consideration.
He cautioned, however, any construction on the islands should not encroach on farmland as Ly Son garlic provides an important source of income to the residents.
In early August, the Ministry of Finance submitted a draft decree to Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung which proposed opening casinos to locals aged 21 and up.
Vietnam's casinos are currently only open to foreign passport holders.
The five-star casino-resort The Grand Ho Tram Strip, part of a $4.2-billion tourist development aimed at attracting foreign visitors, became the sixth casino in Vietnam when it opened in July 2013 in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province, some four hours by car from Ho Chi Minh City.
In August 2013, the Communist Party's Politburo agreed to allow Vietnamese who meet certain criteria to gamble at a casino slated for construction in the Van Don Economic Zone in the northern province of Quang Ninh Province, near the Chinese border.
In April, a majority of deputies at the National Assembly's Standing Committee reached the same conclusion.