Vietnam’s PM approves Laguna Lăng Cô casino development

Asia Vietnam resort
Asia Vietnam
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The new casino’s success will depend on the development of sufficient ancillary accommodation and whether residents will indeed be allowed to gamble at the venue explains Andrew M. Klebanow, Senior Partner at Global Market Advisors.

Gaming expansion continues in Vietnam, as the authorities have recently signed-off on a new casino project at the Laguna Lăng Cô resort in Thua Thien Hue province, scheduled to open in 2021.

Singapore-listed hotel and resort developer Banyan Tree Holdings’ proposal was approved by prime minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc at the start of April, while the Ministry of Planning and Investment has reportedly recommended that Laguna Lăng Cô be given permission to operate a casino catering to both Vietnamese residents and foreigners.

Despite this, there is still no guarantee that the government will ultimately green-light allowing residents to gamble at the new venue, nor that it would grant any market exclusivity if it did.

“While the Laguna Lăng Cô project can be successful without residents, Banyan Tree Holdings will have a far more difficult time securing an outside operator/investor if Vietnamese citizens cannot enter the casino,” said Andrew M. Klebanow, Senior Partner at Global Market Advisors.

The company will increase its total investment from $875m to $2bn – the minimum capital investment requirement to obtain a casino licence – to finance the construction of the casino, along with further hotel villas and apartments.

The casino will initially operate 500 electronic gaming machines and 50 table games, however Banyan Tree Holdings estimates that this figure could increase to 2,000 machines and 200 table games by 2029.

In July 2017, Daniel Cheng, Hard Rock International’s SVP for Casino Business Development in Asia, confirmed that his firm had been shortlisted as the potential gaming partner for the resort after participating in a 2015 request for concepts (RFC) process. “We have finished all the site studies and completed all project financing,” he stated, speaking to the gaming media.

Klebanow suggests that while the ultimate success of a casino at Lăng Cô Bay is dependent on a number of factors, an important element will be the further development of the masterplan, which would serve as the primary source of gamers to the project.

“If the project is built out as promised to include six five-star hotels and 2,200 villas and apartments, then there would certainly be sufficient demand from those lodgers and part-time foreign residents to support a casino,” he explained.

“If it is not built out, then the casino would be dependent on a far smaller population of hotel guests and owners of vacation residences as well as Vietnamese residents willing to make the one-hour drive to the resort.”

Another key factor will be how many casino licenses will be issued in the region and if other operators will be allowed to grant entry to Vietnamese residents.

“Gaming revenue forecasts would in large part be predicated on whether other developments, such as the Crown International Club or the Hoi An project will be granted permission to allow Vietnamese residents to gamble,” Klebanow continued.

“The Crown International Club enjoys a location within Danang and is closer to its 1.3 million residents. If they were granted a license to serve residents, then they would capture the lion’s share of the local market.”

Macau casino junket operator, Tak Chun Group, opened a new 11-table VIP club at the Crown International Club in late March and the property already has a very robust junket business with several regional junket promoters operating tables in the casino.

“The Crown International Club also has a 535-room hotel with a second tower under construction so it will be able to accommodate additional lodging demand. Furthermore, Crown International has developed a charter air program that serves a number of cities in China,” he clarified.

“As such, Tak Chun’s tables would be accretive to the property and, given Tak Chun’s network of players, their junket program should be successful both to them and the casino operator.”

Despite this, Klebanow reflects that the Laguna Lăng Cô development could potentially open the door for a different player demographic.

“Yes, Crown International offers a more convenient location but it also offers a different kind of vacation experience.

“There is a portion of the vacation market that would desire a Banyan Tree vacation/gaming experience at a resort that sits on the most beautiful beach in Asia,” he concluded.

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