Nov 6, 2012

Vietnam - Phu Quoc is not ready to roll dice

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The Vietnamese government has temporarily got cold feet about a $4 billion  casino project on Phu Quoc island.

Kien Giang Provincial People’s Committee and members of a government special task force proposed the government to temporarily stop calling for investment into this project due to investors’ negative responses.

The provincial committee said in its official website there was unanimous agreement to stop calling for investment into the casino integrated resort project on Phu Quoc island, planned since 2010, until the Vietnamese government issues legal regulations governing casino business and criteria for selecting potential investors. In addition, the provincial committee and the task force will propose the government to grant Phu Quoc island a special mechanism to make it more attractive to investors.

The casino project is expected to boost tourism on the island and since 2006, 11 foreign investors have expressed interest in building a casino project on Phu Quoc, according to Kien Giang Provincial People’s Committee. However, most pledges were little more than hot air.

At present, only two investors Philippines’s Environmental Energy Solutions Technology Incorporated Company and Hong Kong’s Asia Strategis Consulting & Advisory Service Ltd are pursuing the project.

“The response from investors was not positive,” said Dang Cong Huan, Deputy Chairman of Kien Giang Provincial People’s Committee, adding that the government’s target was to call for investment from casino savvy foreign investors, but Phu Quoc remained a turn off.

“We don’t want to grant this project to investors who don’t have ability to develop it. If big investors do not pay attention to this project at this time, we will stop calling for investment to wait for the big one in the future,” said Huan.

Vietnam in recent years has been attracting many foreign investors in gaming business. Pinnacle Entertainment, Las Vegas Sands Corp and Donaco Singapore Pte – a company founded by two grandsons of the founder and former chairman of Asia casino empire Genting Berhad – have announced investment plans in Vietnam. Nevertheless, none want Phu Quoc.

Pinnacle Entertainment has joined hands with Canada’s Asian Coast Development Limited (ACDL) to build an integrated resort in southern Ba Ria-Vung Tau province, which is a part of ACDL’s five-resort Ho Tram Strip project and Las Vegas Sands is seeking government approval for building a casino integrated resort in Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi.

Dang Huy Dong, Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment and leader of the government special task force, said Phu Quoc was not attractive to foreign casino investors.

“Actually, we have not had specific criteria for selecting investors and we don’t have any policy to make Phu Quoc different from other places in the country,” said Dong.

Early this year, the Vietnamese government decided to select a foreign advisor in gaming industry for consulting the development of the casino project in Phu Quoc. This advisor will make an investment plan in which the Vietnamese government will use to organise bidding for selecting potential investors of the project. However, Dong said the special task force failed to find a strong adviser for this project.

Ninh Kieu | vir.com.vn


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