The re-election of Vietnam’s General Secretary, Nguyen Phu Trong for a second five-year term by the ruling Communist Party could mean further delays for gambling expansion plans in Vietnam, according to Union Gaming Securities Asia Ltd.
After reformist Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung’s withdrawal from the race, the only candidate was the 71-year old conservative. Union Gaming Securities Asia analyst Grant Govertsen, wrote in a note on Thursday, “As we’ve spoken to those pushing for gaming expansion in Vietnam, we got the sense that there was hope that the reform-minded/pro-business Prime Minister Dung would get the general secretary chair as this would hasten the liberalization of IR-style gaming in Vietnam, along with the ability to allow locals to gamble,” according to local sources. However, any hope of that happening was dashed now that “the incumbent prime minister now appears to be on his way out of politics,” the analyst said.
The Communist Party has been in power since the Vietnam War ended in 1975, and under Vietnam’s one-party rule, the most powerful position is held by the Party’s general secretary, with the prime minister following. A new prime minister is expected to be appointed by the National later this year. Govertsen said, “It would not appear that the incumbent (and now ongoing) general secretary is in any hurry to legalize gaming,” However, Govertsen noted that several entities “continue to move forward with the opening of legal foreigners-only slot parlors in Vietnam’s major cities.” The analyst added that similar to Nevada airports, last November, Prime Minister Dung gave “in principle” approval of slots at the 11 international airports in Vietnam .
Vietnam has eight casinos and 43 slot parlors, but unless they hold a foreign passport, Vietnamese citizens are forbidden to gamble at home. Even under restricted conditions, if locals are allowed to play the interest of foreign investors is likely to be boosted, according to analysts. To date, only one license has been issued by the Vietnamese government, the large-scale Grand Ho Tram Strip project located in Ho Chi Minh City, still referred to as Saigon. Meanwhile, Da Nang, Vietnam’s fourth largest city and the most important seaport in its central region became the first to allow international cruise ships to keep casino services active after docking.
In 2014 Vietnam’s casinos generated $60.72 million in revenue, of which $14.78 million was paid as tax to the country’s budget. If gambling laws do loosen in Vietnam it could become a regional casino hub, according to industry executives.