Vietnam News

Mammoth resort project gets casino license

Category: Vietnam News

By TuoiTreNews | 05 April 2013

Asian Coast Development (Canada) Ltd (ACDL), which is developing a mammoth resort in Vung Tau, said on Thursday it has received local authorities’ approval of amendments to its investment certificate.

The People’s Committee of the coastal province of Ba Ria – Vung Tau has approved the company to operate casinos in its Ho Tram Strip resort project in the province, according to Chief Executive Lloyd Nathan.

ACDL is also allowed to open casinos right during the first phase of the resort’s operation, which was previously set for the first quarter of this year.

The opening time was delayed as one of its partners, MGM Resorts International, announced to withdraw from the project in early March.

Interestingly enough, less than a month after the withdrawal — allegedly due to lack of a casino permit — the project has received that very license.

ACDL, however, refused to give any reason for MGM’s move, while claiming that it had already worked with alternate partners to fill the vacancy, according to Reuters. The Vancouver-based company also said it will announce a new opening date once discussions with its partners are concluded.

Ho Tram Strip is the country’s first-ever large-scale integrated resort, spanning 164 hectares in Ho Tram, two hours’ drive from Ho Chi Minh City. Under the initial deal between ACDL and MGM and other partners, the US$4.2 billion complex will include a 1,100-room hotel under the MGM Grand brand name — the operator of world’s renowned resorts such as Bellagio, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay and The Mirage.

“ACDL is evaluating a suitable new and exciting brand for its first resort,” Lloyd Nathan said in a statement.

“ACDL and its dedicated team of more than 2,000 highly trained professionals is looking forward to opening this five star first of its kind facility and helping to showcase Vietnam as a must-see tourist destination to the world.”

Other principal shareholders of the project, Harbinger Capital and casino operator Pinnacle Entertainment Inc said in a statement they remained committed to the project. Pinnacle acquired a 26 percent stake of ACDL in May 2011.

ACDL announced it has completed construction of the first phase of the resort, worth a combined $500 million and which consists of 541 five-star hotel rooms, nine restaurants, a Las Vegas-modeled casino.

The company is constructing Tower 2 of the resort, which will add 559 five-star rooms, and an 18-hole Greg Norman-designed championship golf course, it said.

Controversial issue

Ho Tram Strip is the only venue that has so far received the license to operate a large-scale casino, which is expected to consist of 180 gambling tables and 2,000 slot machines, according to Vietnamese-language online magazine Vietnam Week.

Vietnam has licensed five small-scale casinos to operate under a pilot scheme. Two of these are located in the northern province of Quang Ninh, while the remaining are in Hai Phong, Lao Cai, and Da Nang, respectively. There are also gambling venues at several major hotels across the country, but these venues are not appealing to gamblers, Vietnam Week said.

All of the said casinos, however, are not allowed to accept Vietnamese citizens.

Approving casino operation in Vietnam has become a debatable topic in the country over the last few months.

In a draft decree released in September 2012, the Ministry of Finance suggested legalizing casino operation in Vietnam, but under strict conditions and requirements.

“Investors should have at least $4 billion worth of capital and ten years of experience in tourism management to be allowed to open a casino in Vietnam,” the ministry said in the bill, which was open for feedback from relevant ministries and agencies.

Advocates of the bill said Vietnam should be more open to casinos, as it will rake in whopping profits for the country, while others said it will cause social disorders.