Opposition to MoF’s proposal to ease casino investment conditions

Vietnam Investment Review

The Ministry of Finance’s (MoF) proposal to ease casino investment conditions in order to boost investment in special administrative-economic zones (SAEZs), particularly the one in Van Don received opposition from the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI) and the Ministry of Defence.

The MoF has just submitted a proposal to the prime minister to revise Decree No.03/2017/ND-CP governing the casino business in Vietnam with the aim to cut a number of investment conditions.

According to the existing regulations, in order to be granted an investment registration certificate to invest in an integrated resort complex with casino services, investors must commit to pouring at least $2 billion into the project. Besides, the investors have to disburse 50 per cent (that is, at least $1 billion) to get the business certificate to operate the casino.

Notably, the MoF would keep the minimum capital at $2 billion, however, it would allow investors to make further investments in the economic zone (while the current regulations forbid this) but such investment cannot exceed 50 per cent of their investment in the casino project. According to the MoF, the new proposal will help resolve difficulties for investors and attract investment into casino and infrastructure projects connected to SAEZs, especially Van Don which is struggling with underdeveloped infrastructure.

Van Don, a rural district in the northern province of Quang Ninh, is one of three areas identified for the development of SAEZs with special incentivesto attract investment. Bac Van Phong in the central coastal province of Khanh Hoa, and Phu Quoc in the southern province of Kien Giang are the two other localities. The National Assembly's appraising and approving a law on SAEZs have been delayed due to a controversy.

To date, Van Don has a single casino being built by Sun Group, one of Vietnam's biggest real estate developers.

The MoF's proposal has received objections from several ministries. According to the Ministry of Defence, now is not the time to revise Decree 3 and cut investment conditions for casino business. Besides, adding particular investment incentives in Van Don will create an unfair playground for licensed casino projects.

The MPI expressed similar views, adding that the expansion of the scope of merging general investment projects with important transport infrastructure projects carried out by investors in a specific area should be considered holistically, not only for casino projects.

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