PHNOM PENH, Feb 23 (NNN-CIC) — Vietnamese gamblers, who are prohibited from entering local casinos in their country, are flocking to casinos and other gambling venues in neighboring Cambodia, with the influx peaking during the Lunar New Year this month.
Vietnamese casinos are open only to foreigners and overseas Vietnamese and it is a tradition during Tet for Vietnamese to gamble. Winning is great and brings luck during the rest of the year but the popular belief is that losing just means they will be lucky at other things like love.
Cambodia, Thailand, and Macau have become beneficiaries as Vietnamese go in droves to these places to gamble.
Cambodia has nine large casinos along the Vietnam border.
The casinos operate legally and attract the moneyed lot who are willing to splurge hundreds of thousands of dollars to test their luck while enjoying luxurious service.
B., a frequent visitor to the Chrey Thum Casino — which is only a few hundred meters from the Khanh Binh border gate in An Giang Province — told Tuoi Tre that more than 100 Vietnamese go there every day.
Each brings tens of millions of dong to bet on cockfights or play Chinese dice games, he said.
The venue also has a cockfighting ring and hotel and is blanketed with cameras while a team of armed guards keep an eye on the gamblers.
Regulars to the casinos get free pickups and VIP cards that come with free meals and accommodation when they run out of money.
The Garden Stones Casino in Takeo Province attracts Vietnamese punters interested in playing poker and blackjack.
But the casinos are not the only venues attracting Vietnamese gamblers.
?If you don?t want to reveal your identity by playing at fancy casinos,? Th. a veteran gambler from Tinh Bien District, An Giang, said, ?just cross over from Tri Ton District into Cambodia and you will find a casino in a field where every type of game is available.?
Rich people from rural areas often go there to play, he said. ?There are security guards, so you don?t have to worry about anything.?
The so-called casino is an ordinary-looking house in the middle of a rice field surrounded by a metal net.
Its parking lot is packed with motorbikes with license plates from Vietnamese provinces like An Giang, Kien Giang, Dong Thap, Hau Giang, and Can Tho.
?When police in southwestern Vietnamese provinces tightened control over the operation of local casinos, a gangster named S. in An Giang teamed up with Cambodians to open this casino,? Th. said.
?More and more border residents are flocking to this place. On the first few days of the New Year, there were 400 to 500 people daily.?
The main language used at the gambling places is Vietnamese because of the high concentration of Vietnamese.
Th. said some well-heeled gamblers like U. and L. from Can Tho city often bet VND5 million ($267) to VND10 million on a single game.
?L. lost VND200 million in three days and so has come back today, hoping to win back some of the money.?
A number of people lost billions of dong, he added.
The illegal casinos charge each gambler an entry fee of VND10,000 and have security guards who keep a watchful eye.
They also have some rules: gamblers cannot play without money in their pockets, cheat, or take photos.
It is estimated that each of these illegal casino earn VND100 million ($5,333) a day while most of its Vietnamese patrons go home empty-handed.
Casinos made a considerable contribution to Cambodia?s tourism industry, the country?s second-biggest earner after agriculture.
Cambodia generated revenues of $19 million from its 29 casinos in 2008, according to its Finance Ministry.
It fell to $17 million last year, with the decline attributed to a fall in tourist arrivals and rising border tensions with neighboring Thailand, according to Reuters.
A 10th casino on the Vietnamese border is expected to open its doors on February 26.
The Titan King Casino is just a kilometer from the Moc Bai border gate, and Kith Thieng, the owner of the $100 million casino, said Vietnamese gamblers are the prime targets.