UPDATE 1-ACDL says MGM no longer involved in Vietnam casino resort

Thu Mar 7, 2013 5:29am EST

* Planned Q1 opening off, new date to be announced

* Company awaiting approval of investment certificate

* MGM move comes after ACDL shareholder warned of risks

HONG KONG, March 7 (Reuters) - Asian Coast Development (Canada) Ltd (ACDL), which is developing Vietnam's first large-scale integrated resort, said on Thursday its partner, MGM Resorts International, will no longer manage the project, the latest setback to the development.

ACDL also said on Thursday it was still awaiting final regulatory approval of amendments to its investment certificate, which is required to operate the casinos. The project had been targeted to open in the first quarter of this year. ACDL said it will announce a new opening date once discussions with alternate partners are concluded.

The resort in Ho Tram, two hours' drive from Ho Chi Minh City, has been beset with problems including financing and licensing issues, while its location away from the city makes it less accessible to gamblers versus new destination casinos.

ACDL gave no reason for MGM's move and said it was already in talks with alternate partners to take over the running of the property. MGM officials were not available to comment.

"We thank MGM for its assistance in the hiring and training of our 2,000-strong team of Vietnamese hospitality professionals," Chief Executive Lloyd Nathan said in a statement. "We are delighted that we have completed the construction of the first phase of our first resort," he added.

Vancouver-based operator ACDL's principal shareholders, Harbinger Capital and casino operator Pinnacle Entertainment Inc , which bought 26 percent of ACDL in May 2011, said in the statement they remained committed to the project.

The news comes more than three months after Pinnacle said it could lose its investment of more than $100 million in the casino project as a result of problems with gaming licenses and funding by local banks.

Emerging Asia's strong growth and its affinity for gambling have attracted scores of investors, although unfavourable regulation, political interference and underdeveloped infrastructure are key risks, analysts say.

ACDL's Ho Tram development includes 541 five-star rooms and suites, nine restaurants, gaming facilities and luxury retail.

The company said it is now constructing Tower 2 of the first resort, which will add 559 five-star rooms and is constructing an 18-hole Greg Norman-designed championship golf course.

Nearby, the Philippines is soon to open a luxury casino resort on Manila bay and three more are set to follow.

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