Phu Quoc, the heart-shaped paradise island in southern Kien Giang province has been given the green light by the Vietnamese government to build a casino and entertainment complex on “Pear Island”. The 30,000 square meter (322,917 sq ft) casino would host between 200 and 400 gaming tables and as many as 2,000 slot machines. No local nor foreign investors have been identified for the project, but reports indicate that Vietnamese money is favored for the venture.

Phu Quoc is situated within a UNESCO recognized World Biosphere Reserve and is located off Vietnam’s southeastern coast. The island is scheduled to become an administrative economic zone by 2020. Reports indicate that Phu Quoc Town could become the capital city of Kien Giang Province as early as this year.

Special economic zones, especially in communist countries, enjoy tax breaks, unprecedented autonomy, and other incentives for investment. They also have the same standing as cities in most circumstances and can issue project bonds and government bonds to finance development. Under the administrative economic zone, Pho Quoc would be allowed to keep 100 percent of its profits for reinvestment in infrastructure for the first ten years of operation.

Phu Quoc has struggled to find footing as a tourist haven despite its idyllic setting and special rules. Foreign visitors can come to the island and stay as long as 30 days without a passport. A Russian helicopter airline serves direct flights to the island, but the majority of flyers carry on to other destinations as soon as the chopper takes off again. Tourism is however increasing as word spreads about the vacant and secluded deep sand beaches, warm blue waters, and mountainous interior. National Geographic Traveler magazine listed Phu Quoc as one of the best winter trips in 2014.

It would seem that in order to compete for the well-heeled and deep-pocketed gamblers the Phu Quoc casino will need to thrive or even survive, there must be a modern infrastructure in place as well as a resort offering the comforts and amenities high rollers have come to expect. To get the current Russian tourism to increase, room rates will need to go down to be competitive with current end destinations of Da Nang, Cam Ranh, and Phan Thiet.

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