Is Vietnam poised too become Asia’s next casino haven?

The Ho Tram Grand seems like an anomaly right now, but that perception may change soon 
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In a country that forbids its citizens to step inside casinos, it’s easy to see the Ho Tram Grand as an anomaly. The integrated resort-casino opened last year and features 35 mass-market gaming tables, six VIP tables and 614 electronic gambling machines as well as a 541-room hotel, 10 bars and restaurants, three swimming pools, a spa, convention space, and numerous luxury retail shops.

In my recent visit to Ho Tram Grand, I found out that there are accommodation packages for members — meaning Casino members, where they can stay for the night for free just as long as they spend a minimum amount in the Casino.

Be that as it may, there’s been talk about the Ho Tram Grand sparking a “casino rush” similar to the “seaport rush” and “airport rush” of the past. VietnamNet Bridge recently reported that other provinces are now itching to follow Ho Tram’s lead and putting up their own casinos.

“If a province develops a casino, other provinces will decide that they also need to develop casinos to develop the local economies,” said Minister of Planning and Investment Bui Quang Vinh. “It is because local authorities cannot think of any other way to make money.” Vinh also noted that at first there was only one casino development proposal on the table. Now there are 10.

The Ho Tram Grand certainly has had an effect on Ho Tram’s economy, but perhaps the online poker boom has also had a hand in the perceived “casino rush”. Consider Di and Hac Dang, a pair of Vietnamese-American brothers who managed to hit it big through online poker tournaments.

The Dang brothers started out with a $50 deposit on online gaming giant Partypoker. This was pretty close to the company’s infancy, and years before they joined the social media train and got on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. As such, the landscape for an online poker beginner was vastly different from how it is now, where you can get a wealth of information with a single click.

“We didn’t know what we were doing,” Di explained in an interview with Voice of America. “We have a strong math background, we’re very competitive, and we like strategy. We just chose to play poker in our free time.” Despite the relative lack of learning materials, having each other to bounce ideas off of became one of the Dang brothers’ best resources. In 2012, their total combined winnings since they started playing seriously in 2004 was estimated to be at $15 million.

While the odds of becoming the next Dang brothers is pretty much one in a million, it won’t stop people from dreaming. They may get a chance to pursue the dream soon, too, Reuters as  reported last month that Vietnamese officials are considering loosening gambling laws to attract high rollers.

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