Ministry Submits $2.2 Billion Casino Resort Plan to PM

The Ministry of Planning and Investment in Vietnam has submitted a proposal to Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh to develop a $2.2 billion integrated casino resort in Van Don in the northern coastal province of Quang Ninh.

Known as the Van Don Casino project, the massive gaming development would be located within the Van Don Economic Zone. According to reports sent to the Prime Minister, the initial investment cost is estimated at over 51 trillion Vietnamese dong (US$2.18 billion).

Once opened, Van Don Casino would be the nation’s second casino to welcome Vietnamese citizens alongside international guests. Analysts forecast that the economic impact and opportunities generated by the resort gaming property will be comparable to those of the proposed Empire City Casino, which is expected to create over 2500 jobs.

Massive Integrated Casino Resort Proposed for Van Don Economic Zone

A high-end tourist destination, which would include resorts and hotels, is being proposed by the People’s Committee of Quang Ninh. The Vietnam Ministry of Planning and Investment has recently provided a comprehensive report to Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, endorsing the substantial investment.

The plan outlines a vision for a $2.2 billion project that includes an integrated casino and various resort amenities to capitalise on the prosperous opportunities offered by Van Yen Village within the economic zone. 

The proposed casino resort complex would cover nearly 250 hectares of land in the Van Don district, Quang Ninh Province, near the Chinese border. Plans detail a massive integrated resort featuring hotels, venues, shops, restaurants, and other tourism amenities.

The centerpiece would be a casino allowing access to local Vietnamese gamblers, something not currently permitted under law. Only foreigners are allowed to gamble in the country’s existing casinos. The Van Don resort would require a special regulatory carve-out to enable Vietnamese citizens to participate in casino gambling.

Proposed Casino Expected to be Completed by Late 2032

The project, which has a starting capital of VND 51.55 trillion ($2.18 billion), is expected to be completed by the third quarter of 2032, with a construction period of less than nine years. Once approved, it will be operational for a duration of 70 years.

The Van Don Casino will be one of only two in Vietnam allowed to welcome Vietnamese citizens, as per a policy that was passed in 2016. The Quang Ninh authority introduced the Van Don project during a government conference in late 2018.

The bidding process for the Van Don Casino project was scheduled by the People’s Committee of Quang Ninh in July for sometime before the end of 2023, pending government approval.

Government Reviewing The Ambitious Proposal

The $2.2 billion casino proposal remains under review by various government ministries and has yet to receive final approval. Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh has requested detailed assessments from the Ministry of Planning and Investment, as well as local Quang Ninh authorities, on the feasibility, opportunities, and potential social impacts of allowing local gamblers into the casinos.

If approved, the Van Don resort would be Vietnam’s largest integrated casino complex. Only a handful of smaller foreigner-only casinos and resorts currently operate in the country, clustered near the southern borders.

Proponents argue that the resort could significantly boost the local and national economy. Ministry projections estimate the complex would generate an average annual after-tax profit of 8.16 trillion dong once operational. 

Over the planned 70-year lifespan, the project is projected to contribute sizable sums in tax revenue to state coffers. With large-scale infrastructure like this, the goal is to promote regional tourism and development.

The Van Don project is forecast to create over 6,000 local jobs in the northern Quang Ninh economic zone and generate VND228,000 billion for the state coffers in its seven-decade operation. Backers also cite increased tax revenues for the province and a potential boost to tourism amid rising regional competition in gaming resort destinations.

Mass Tourism Vision Carries Controversy

Vietnam has taken a cautious approach to casinos for decades, only allowing a limited number of gambling venues catering strictly to foreign visitors. These policies aim to limit gambling addiction and related social issues among Vietnamese citizens. Given that illegal gambling debts are said to have devastated the majority of Vietnamese workers who traveled to Japan, this has become particularly significant for the Government.

Given these longstanding concerns, the proposal to enable local gamblers in Van Don has stoked some controversy. However, planners envision developing Quang Ninh into a world-leading tourism hub, following the Las Vegas and Macau model.

Proponents downplay the risks of addiction, citing entry levies and exclusions for vulnerable groups. The draft law also bans credit and lending within the casinos while enabling voluntary self-exclusions. Advertising would face restrictions as well.

The main priority appears focused on the economic upside rather than social impacts. In addition to tax revenues and jobs, local officials estimate the casino resort could attract up to seven million visitors annually, including Vietnamese and foreign tourists. This would make Quang Ninh one of the top tourist destinations in Southeast Asia.

Regulatory Hurdles and Scrutiny

However, some skepticism remains about the feasibility and profitability of the project. At 32.8 years, the estimated break-even point is quite long. 

As gambling operations in Vietnam also face strict regulations, approval from top government officials will be needed to move forward. Others question if tourism demand can support such a massive development in the long term. 

Vietnam retains strict restrictions around many forms of gambling compared to regional neighbors. Small-scale community card rooms and informal private betting remain illegal outside licensed casinos. 

Opinions remain divided on how quickly Vietnam should open its gaming industry to boost tourism. Regulators will weigh the economic arguments against potential social issues from expanded gambling access.

Summing Up

The Van Don Phoenix proposal presents an intriguing opportunity for Vietnam. It remains under assessment and must clear additional hurdles before construction could begin. While further debate seems likely, the Van Don integrated resort concept aligns with the faster-paced development plans for northern Vietnam.

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