On 20 January 2017, the Government issued a long-awaiting casino business decree No. 03/2017/ND-CP (Casino Decree). Although the issuance of the Casino Decree after almost 10 years of waiting opens a promising market to casino industry, foreign investors have been very hesitant and in the waiting mode for further clarification documents from competent authorities. Finally after more than six months since the Casino Decree’s effective date, on 05 October 2017, the Ministry of Finance issues Circular No. 102/2007/TT-BTC (Casino Circular) guiding the Casino Decree. The Casino Circular helps complete the regulatory framework for casino business in Vietnam and put the young industry in momentum growth.
Local Vietnamese eligible for gambling
Local Vietnamese will be permitted to gamble at specific casinos approved by competent authority on a 3-year trial basis (i.e. – calculating from the first day opening of the authorized integrated resorts). According to the public media, only 02 casinos are open to Vietnamese individuals on a 3-year piloting scheme, which are located within complex resorts in Phu Quoc District, Kien Giang Province (South Vietnam) and Van Don District, Quang Ninh Province (North Vietnam). A small likelihood that Ho Tram Resort would join the list.
Local players are permitted to enter casinos if they essentially satisfy the following conditions: (i) 21 years old or above; (ii) monthly salary of VND10 million or more (equivalent to approximately US$440); (iii) paying entrance fee of VND1 million (US$44)/24 hours/ person or VND25 million (USD1,100)/ month/ person; and (iv) not being objected in writing by siblings, spouses and/or biological and adopted parents to play at casinos. However, these conditions, especially the monthly income requirement, are complicated to prove and were not previously dealt with in the Casino Decree. The Casino Circular then substantiates this requirement as below:
– Having documents (tax declarations/ confirmation by tax authorities) proving taxable income at level 3 or above pursuant to the Law on Personal Income Tax;
– Notarized house/ assets lease contract, where the total monthly rent is VND 10 million or above;
– Notarized bank savings book or bank statement of savings with a term of one year or more and having monthly interest from VND10 million or above;
– Other documents proving that the usual monthly income of players being VND 10 million or above; or
– In case a single document mentioned above is not sufficient to prove the VND10 million monthly income, players can submit several documents to prove such total monthly income.
Casinos under strict supervision of tax authorities
Casino-operating enterprises must arrange a place in the casino with necessary means and equipment for state authorities to perform the casino management and surveillance directly or via electronic equipment and camera system. Transactions under supervision are monetary transactions and/ or tokens related ones. These transactions must also be recorded ad reported to the tax authorities.
In addition, state authorities also supervise, either directly or via electronic and camera system, the inventorying and calculation of transactions performed at cashier area and/ or areas for counting and storing cash and tokens.
Foreign currency control in casino business
Casino-operating enterprises must exchange Vietnamese Dong or other currencies for tokens and vice versa for players.
The exchange rates for Vietnamese Dong or other currencies to tokens and vice versa must be based on the purchasing rates on the transaction date announced by the licensed bank where the casino-operating enterprise’s specialized foreign currency account is opened. In case the transaction date falls on days off or public holidays, the exchange rates must be based on the rates announced on the previous transaction date.
A casino-operating enterprise may accept bank cards of players to exchange for tokens when they play in the casino. The transaction must be in Vietnamese Dong.
In case the Vietnamese players win the prizes, they are only allowed to receive the prize in Vietnamese Dong (whether in cash or by bank transfer). This is not the case for foreign players where they can also receive the prize in foreign currency.
The issuance of the Casino Decree and the Casino Circular timely open Vietnam’s young casino industry to attract foreign investment and limit foreign currency loss to other neighbouring countries. According to recent statistics, Vietnam loses about USD800 million in tax revenue annually from gamblers who cross the border to Cambodia. This is even more critical as many countries in the region already allows casino business such as Macau, Singapore, Philippines, Korea and recently Japan. In such scenario, the Vietnam Government still has a lot to do in order to not only retain Vietnamese players in the market but also attract foreign players who are already familiar with other casinos in the region.