Slot machines are in many big hotels in HCMC. Most of them open 24/7 to serve thousands of foreigners who are travelling, working and doing business.
The secret garden
Located on the 1st & 2nd floor of the 5-star Caravelle Saigon, just one step inside and the customers are overwhelmed with the beautiful atmosphere, filled with beautiful smiles of young female attendants.
Sparkling light and melodious music immediately pull the guests into a wonder world, entirely forget the noisy streets behind them.
Before stepping in, all the guests are greeted with the brightest smiles, follow the rules to make sure that everyone will have a good time without any misunderstanding.
All the roulette, baccarat and blackjack machines are named 5 Dragons, Lotus Princess, Mighty Cash, 5 Koi Legend, Cash Cove … standing in rows around 2,5-meter-high with bright colorful screens and very comfortable leather chairs.
But the most attractive part of these colorful machines is the enormous number on top of each machine, showing the total grand price for that one lucky shot.
This “jackpot” can reach up to hundred thousand of dollars, and whoever strikes this fortune can feel at ease with the available security service that will escort them back to their staying place.
Winner Winner Chicken Dinner
Most of the players are businessmen, investors and expats that are living and working around Ho Chi Minh city. Hundreds of players are playing each night with lots of servers to keep up with their basic needs.
There are rumors that a lucky U.S businessman just won a grand prize of 70.000 USD last week, he was immediately rewarded by cash and escorted right away with utmost secrecy.
Not only bringing fortune for the players, in Saigon, casino is becoming a highly rated service and fine source of revenue for many 5-star hotels. Besides the wonderful Vegas Club of Caravelle Saigon, many 5-star hotels are now equipped with their own casino, including Omni, Equatorial, Rex, Sheraton …
Many investors are looking for empty spaces located right in the remaining hotels to open new casinos, especially casinos in Saigon. After 2 years in operation, Club 21 in Omni Saigon hotel is closed for more expansion! More machines, spaces and servers are newly added every week to keep up with the demand.
A vice president of operation for a famous casino in Saigon confidently shared that his team is waiting for more new machines, most of them are being transported via sea and will be installed once the customs is cleared.
Mr. Nguyen Ngoc My, Chairman of the Viet Kieu Club, one of the earliest investors for this type of service in Ho Chi Minh City, confirmed that in 2001, Beside Vegas club, Sai Gon has many places with slot machines for tourists such as Equatorial and New world Hotel.
To order 60 slot machines in Equatorial, Mr. My invested 25 billion VND. “In the early years, visitors came to play a lot, and sometimes there were big buses carrying groups after groups to play. On average, at least 30 of the 60 machines are occupied at any moment,” Mr. My said.
Omni Saigon Hotel’s General Manager – Mr. James McStay Ong worked in Las Vegas several years before coming to Vietnam, shared: “To attract customers, recently all the casinos have started giving VIP cards or free gifts (vouchers) in many values.”
The promising pilot programs
The first and only casino has just been opened for Vietnamese citizens to play on January 19, 2019. This casino is located on Phu Quoc Island and the pilot program will last for 3 years, complying with Government Decree No. 03/2017.
According to the official decree, “casino business” is the business of prize-winning games on “electronic games and gaming tables”, all games and tables have to comply with the conditions of the government and state license.
Vietnamese people also must pay 1 million VND entrance fees for Phu Quoc casino per person for each 24-hour period, this fee will be added into Kien Giang provincial budget.
Not only that, before entering the casino, according to the state regulations, the Vietnamese player must also have a “valid ID” confirming that he/she is more than 21 years of age and “proof of monthly income from 10 million VND or more.”
The officials are very confident about this program, mainly because the casino is in a tourist area, away from the central and populated area. Moreover, only those who have the wealth to travel got to play, so they are not afraid to have people playing overboard and getting out of hand.
Before this legalization, Vietnam only had 8 casino businesses but only allowed foreigners to play. Because there is no legal gambling in the country, every year, there are tens of thousands of Vietnamese people carrying vast amounts of money to play at foreign casinos, most likely in Cambodia, Hong Kong, Macau, etc.
An experienced reporter is very pleased with this progress: “I think this is a good step. Opening the pilot casino in Phu Quoc is considered a huge step of innovation, a positive breakthrough, and that must be fulfilled. The government must provide the opportunity for people with gambling needs, they all have the right to gambling.”
As a matter of fact, gambling is one of the on-going crimes that can never be eliminated. The quantity and sophistication of gambling keep on developing despite all the banning efforts from the government.
Not long ago, Vietnamese people witnessed an ironic report: Two high-ranking Vietnamese police officers, Mr. Phan Van Vinh and Mr. Nguyen Thanh Hoa, instead of preventing criminals from gambling, have spent years conserving a gambling online network of hundreds of millions of dollars. At the end of 2018, the two generals received prison sentences for their crimes.
From this reality, many experts believe that allowing Vietnamese players in Vietnamese casinos is just serving an “essential need”, and most importantly, keeping Vietnamese people from “enriching the foreigners”.
In the meantime, there are at least 6 small-scale casino projects in Lao Cai, Quang Ninh, Hai Phong, Da Nang and 2 large-scale projects in Ba Ria – Vung Tau and Quang Nam provinces are set in motion, all are heading forward to a bright gambling future of Vietnam.