Business, Economics and Jobs

Vietnamese? Stay out of your homeland's casinos


Chinese tourists in 2011 walking the lobby of Silver Shores International Resort, which runs Crown casino in the Vietnamese central coastal city of Da Nang.



As Vietnam ramps up its luxurious casino complexes, officials insist there is one nationality that should never be allowed inside.

The Vietnamese.

The communist nation's investment minister, according to Thanh Nien News, has said a ban on locals visiting casinos is "not negotiable." According to the report, foreign investors, who have designs on sprawling new gambling halls in fast-growing Vietnam, are being told they shouldn't submit proposals if they won't comply with the prohibition.

To many Westerners, this will seem an odd legal decree: how could a government offer rights to outsiders that aren't extended to its own citizens?

But similar paternalistic laws -- designed to protect locals from gambling's ills -- are found throughout Southeast Asia.

Laos has the same law. So does Cambodia, where rich border-hopping Vietnamese have turned the impoverished nation's casinos into a $173.8 million industry. (Source: the UK-based Global Betting & Gaming Consultants agency, which I contacted recently for a pending story.)

As Vietnam develops, perhaps officials will concede to the Singapore solution: a roughly $80 entrance fee for locals meant to keep out the destitute.

That "locals fee" is hardly deterring Singapore's gaming frenzy. In case you haven't heard, the island's casinos now rake in more cash than those in Vegas.