A US$ 4 billion casino is in construction between Danang and Hoi An in Central Vietnam with an opening date set for 2019.
Along a three-kilometer (2-mile) stretch of coastline in central Vietnam, construction cranes are digging up mounds of sand and rubble where the country’s biggest casino is set to open next year.
Vietnam is betting big on developing a gambling industry, targeting the Chinese tourists who have been flocking to the country in recent years.
In addition to Hoiana, two other casinos, one in Van Don in the northern province of Quang Ninh, and one on Phu Quoc island in the south, are also under construction. The two projects will be part of a pilot program that would allow Vietnamese citizens to gamble at casinos for the first time.
Hoiana will be the first casino owned by SunCity, which will have a one-third stake in the project. VinaCapital, a Vietnamese investment management and real estate firm, and the Hong Kong-based VMS Investment Group will also have similar-sized stakes.
“The government really wishes to bring tourism here,” said Henry Tam, project director of Hoi An South Development, the local company which is building Hoiana. He added that development of the area would also include a school and sports stadium for local residents.
“This is a 15-20 year project,” he said. “The area is four times the size of Macau’s Cotai strip.”
The Hoiana project comes with challenges. Local Vietnamese will not be allowed to gamble at the casino and operations are subject to Vietnam’s uncertain regulatory environment.
Competition around Asia is also heating up, with Macau, the world’s largest gambling center, building more resorts, and South Korea and the Philippines expanding their casino footprints. Other countries like Singapore also compete in the sector.
Ho Tram, a multi-billion dollar casino project located a two-hour drive from Ho Chi Minh City, had construction delays and financing problems before it opened in 2013. The casino – which is owned by Asian Coast Development, headed by the hedge fund manager Philip Falcone – has struggled to attract foreign gamblers to its remote location.
There are fewer than 10 casinos in Vietnam, mostly smaller ones outside major cities. At present, only foreign passport holders can enter and gamble in them.