The central city of Da Nang is now the only place in Vietnam where international cruise ships can dock overnight with onboard casinos legally open to punters, a local official has confirmed.
Although it appears to be an unwritten law, foreign-flagged cruise liners usually suspend several onboard services, including gambling venues, whenever they are in Vietnamese waters.
A possible explanation is that authorities are worried local residents could board the ships to gamble, which they are not allowed to do at home as per the law.
But the Da Nang Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism believes it is a chance wasted if onboard casinos continue to be disallowed.
“We have reviewed all relevant legal documents and found no rules that require foreign ships to close certain services when docking in Vietnam,” deputy director Tran Chi Cuong told reporters on Wednesday.
The department has therefore called on the municipal administration to allow international cruise vessels to open their onboard casinos when spending the night at the city’s Tien Sa Port, Cuong said.
“The services must be allowed to remain open to attract more ships [to Da Nang] and encourage them to stay overnight,” he added.
Besides the gambling venues, foreign ships are also permitted to open their duty-free stores during their stay in the city.
The decision will take effect in the middle of this month, and the SuperStar Libra, operated by Star Cruises, a leading cruise line in Asia Pacific, will be the first to benefit from the rule, according to the official.
Tien Sa Port is expected to handle more than 110 cruise ships, with over 100,000 luxury tourists aboard, during 2016. Last year Da Nang welcomed 1.26 million international tourists, a solid 34 percent increase year on year.
Star Cruises have recently sent representatives to work with authorities in Da Nang and the northern province of Quang Ninh, home to the famous Ha Long Bay, and the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) to seek approval for the onboard casinos.
But Da Nang is the only city to have given the green light.
According to The Saigon Times Online, many other cruise operators have repeatedly called on the VNAT and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism to allow them to open all onboard services when docking in Vietnam.
The onboard casinos and entertainment venues are particularly needed by cruise passengers who do not go ashore to explore attractions in the Vietnamese locations, but prefer staying aboard.
Ship operators also say that local authorities should not worry that Vietnamese people can enter the cruises to gamble.
As per Vietnamese law, international ships are considered foreign territory, so local citizens are required to complete immigration procedures to go aboard.
There are only a few local ports that run the immigration procedures, so there is almost no chance for Vietnamese people to enter and play at onboard casinos, The Saigon Times Online said, citing several cruise firms.