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Tourist Only Casinos That Locals Can’t Visit

tourists only stampYou may already know that gambling is not legal in all countries around the world. Some provide very liberal gambling options, such as the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, there are those locations where gambling is very much off-limits. Yet there is another type of gambling scenario in some countries. They ban casino gambling, but only for locals. They have land-based casinos in different cities and these physical venues are only there to play host to tourists. They are not available to local residents to enter and play in.

As it happens, these casinos exist in more countries than you may expect. If you’re a gambling tourist, then it may be good to know about them. You may want to pay them a visit and see what they’re like, of course, it is nice to know where they are in the world. It is also interesting to find out why the rules are the way they are. Is there a specific reason that locals cannot visit these casino establishments? Let’s have a look at some of the casinos of this type.


monte carlo casino monaco

Everyone knows that Monaco is like the central hub of gambling in Europe. The Monte Carlo casino is famous for attracting big-name celebrities to its venue. It was only last year when newly-married Ben Affleck and J-Lo visited. Many high rollers also go to the casino to try and enhance their funds on the games. Yet the laws do forbid locals from entering and playing these games. Around 39,000 people live in Monaco, and all are not welcome in the country’s casinos.

Thousands of tourists flock to Monaco every year for their fair share of gambling, though. The microstate offers luxury and extravagance to all. The income it receives from gambling is huge. Yet locals do not contribute to this at all.

The only way a Monegasque can set foot in a physical venue is if they work there. Different interpretations of the origins of the prohibition on gambling exist. It is very much vital to Monaco, as it brings in a lot of revenue. So, you would think that allowing locals to partake in it would be even better. Alas, Monaco is a tax haven, which means locals do not pay any income tax anyway. Gambling income is also not taxed in the same way that it is in other European countries. Instead, foreign visitors spend their money on the games to provide the income for Monaco.

Some have suggested that there is a motivation behind the tourist-only policy. This is so that the economy remains nourished on a continuous basis. Yet while this may be a point to take note of, it isn’t the primary reason behind it. For that, you’ll need to take a walk back in time to the 19th century.

At that time, the ruling family of Monaco was the House of Grimaldi. Despite ruling over the microstate, the family faced a future of bankruptcy. It was Princess Caroline who had the idea to open a casino in Monaco. She convinced François Blanc to move his Bad Homburg Casino from Germany. Despite there being lots of initial hesitance, Blanc agreed to it. It was from here that the Monte Carlo Casino came about and grew in fame. At the same time as it opened, Princess Caroline introduced the ban for locals. This was all down to moral reasons. She didn’t want locals gambling away their money. Why? Because the state needed every Monegasque franc that it could save. The main goal was to attract foreign tourists so that they would spend instead.

The laws in Monaco have not changed since that time. Passport checks take place at the entrance to the casinos in the microstate. So, of course, if you’re a traveller, you can walk in with little issue. If you live in Monaco, you’ll need to seek out alternate options.


golden sand casino cambodia

Golden Sand Casino Sihanoukville, Cambodia – Christophe95, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Cambodia is not likely to be a country that many people think of when considering gambling. After all, it is in a location surrounded by other countries like Vietnam and Thailand. Yet there is a gambling scene there for visitors to experience. Foreign gamblers do have the chance to visit land-based venues to get involved in this. Establishments like the Peak Hotel and Casino, and Ho Wah Genting Poipet provide it. For locals though, the story is a different one.

If you look back in history a few decades, the citizens of Cambodia did partake in gambling. In fact, they loved it so much that it grew out of control. Gambling addictions became rife across the country, leading to the government making changes. In 1996, it introduced a ban on all types of gambling across Cambodia. It is the Law on Suppression of Gambling that bans this for locals. At the same time, penalties from fines to prison sentences came about as part of it.

As of October 2015, a total of 75 casinos were active in Cambodia. These all catered to foreign tourists only. Within the first nine months of the year, these casinos provided around $29 million in revenue. Slot machines remained accessible to locals in the nation’s casinos. Yet in 2009, these were also banned due to complaints of violence over gambling debts.

Despite the fact that there is a ban on locals entering casinos in Cambodia, this isn’t a strict law. Police forces often look the other way when casinos allow locals to enter them. Even private rooms are often provided to government and law enforcement officials. This is due to the fact that Cambodian culture suggests that men who don’t gamble aren’t masculine. Thus, illegal gambling takes place with locals throughout the country.


casino du liban lebanon

Casino du Liban Lebanon – Yoniw, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In Lebanon, there is a single land-based casino in operation. This is the Casino du Liban, which has the monopoly over all casino gaming in the country. This has been the case since 1995, and it will likely continue to be the case going forward. It comes under the ownership, in part, of the state. This has exclusive right to conduct casino games until 2026 for the moment. Casino du Liban is also the largest casino in the Middle East, standing at 35,000 square metres. It includes around 600 slot machines and 60 gaming tables. There is also a showroom, theatre, night club and five restaurants inside.

The success of this casino is in large part down the tourism industry. Around 1.9 million people visit Lebanon per year. Only a small number of locals have permission to enter the casino. Who are these people? The rich, of course. Yes, the law states that only rich Lebanese people can enter the Casino du Liban. Such people stand out if they make 100x the Lebanese minimum wage each year. Yet there is no real way of knowing how the authorities check this when a person visits the casino.

Anyone looking to enter the casino needs to register, unless visiting the slots area. There is also a strict dress code enforced at Casino du Liban. Rich Lebanese people can enter, but not if they are:

  • Government or public sector employees
  • Military personnel
  • Cashiers in banks or commercial establishments

North Korea

pyongyang casino signDespite the horror stories that we all hear about North Korea, it still has a tourism industry. As it happens, it also provides tourists with the ability to visit a casino, too. Gambling is illegal for citizens of North Korea, but foreign tourists can engage in it. Yet this is only possible if they have an official guide with them. The casino business in North Korea started in 1990.

This saw investors from Hong Kong and Macau given permission to open such venues. The idea of this was to attract Chinese players, as gambling is illegal within China. As it stands, there are two casinos still operating in North Korea. The first exists in the capital of Pyongyang, with the other in Rason.

The first casino is accessible in the Yanggakdo Hotel on the bottom floor. Baccarat and blackjack are playable in the casino, although it doesn’t have much of an atmosphere. It has become popular for tourists to take a Gak casino chip away with them, though. The other, found in Rason, is in the Rason Special Economic Zone.

At the Imperial Hotel and Casino, you can experience some fun games. It has a €500 entrance fee, which is then given back to you in chips to gamble with. The casino was set up to cater to serious gamblers from China and Russia. Of course, how many visitors they receive per year remains a mystery.


grand ho tram strip in vietnam

The Grand Ho Tram Strip in Vietnam – VN1000, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Gambling in Vietnam is illegal. This has been the case for many decades. Until the late 20th century, the only legal gambling option in Vietnam was the lottery. As a way of trying to combat illegal gambling in the country, the government took steps. This saw it begin legalising certain forms of gambling. There are several brick-and-mortar casinos in operation within Vietnam. It is foreign firms that operate these for the most part. Ho Chi Minh City operates as the country’s largest gambling hub. There, 10 land-based casinos exist to enter.

None of the casinos within Vietnam’s borders will accept locals, though. Due to the country’s prohibition on gambling, only foreigners can play in them. This sees many Vietnamese people travel across the border into Cambodia. Various casinos are available in the city of Bavet for them to access. It’s only an hour or so away from Ho Chi Minh City.

The largest casino in Vietnam as of 2017 was The Grand Ho Tram Strip. That establishment comes under the control of Phillip Falcone, and it opened in 2013. It’s a $1 billion building, which features a 550-room hotel and a golf course. It is a rule that foreign investors have to invest more than $2 billion to qualify for a casino licence. In 2018, a two-mile stretch of coastline in Vietnam saw construction begin. That was set aside for the new largest casino to occupy. A company from Macau had invested $4 billion in the Hoiana project, covering almost 1,000 hectares. The casino opened in 2021 after COVID-19 delays. SunCity is the company responsible for its ownership and operation.

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