To the dismay of the U.S. State Department, Vietnam is on the verge of allowing its citizens to gamble in its casinos.
Last November, the Vietnamese government announced a three-year pilot program where the government would allow citizens to gamble in its casinos. It would cost citizens a daily entrance fee of 1 million Vietnamese dong ($44), assuming they can prove their monthly income is more than 10 million dong ($432). Potential gamblers must be at least 21 years old.
Before the program was announced, only foreigners traveling with a passport were allowed inside the country’s casinos.
The program is about to start, but government officials in the U.S. believe that this move will increase money laundering activity in the region.
A report released by the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, an agency within the State Department stated: “In 2018, Vietnam granted its first pilot licenses to local casinos, increasing its money laundering risks if authorities do not ensure these establishments effectively implement and enforce anti-money laundering (AML) standards.”
The report also noted that “newly-legalized local casinos” increase the likelihood of money laundering in the region. It also pointed to the increase in economic crime in other parts of the region such as persistent illegal activity in Macau and the Philippines.
High-stakes poker player and Malaysian businessman Paul Phua was arrested in Macau for allegedly running an illegal sports betting ring out of a casino hotel room. He was cleared of those charges.
For locals in the country, they will only be allowed to frequent casinos with a total investment of at least $2 billion. Currently, that only includes Corona Resort and Casino on Phu Quoc island, which opened in January. A second casino that fits these guidelines is expected to open later this year in northern Vietnam.