Discretion pays for Vietnam casino raking in wealthy Chinese

Mon Dec 7, 2015 3:31am EST
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By Farah Master

DANANG, Vietnam (Reuters) - A small beachfront Vietnamese casino is giving Macau's VIP gambling scene a run for its money, drawing in more wealthy Chinese through its columned facade than many Southeast Asian rivals with the allure of sun, sand and discretion.

Few outside Danang have heard of the Crown International Games Club, a privately owned casino located along this rapidly developing city's main resort strip and which over the past year has emerged as the most exciting place for wealthy Chinese to drop bets worth at least HK$1 million ($129,030).

The popularity of this low-profile casino among the world's most prolific gamblers coincides with the waning fortunes of bigger, more famous rivals such as the opulent Wynn Macau and Grand Lisboa in Macau as a Chinese government crackdown on corruption and conspicuous spending batters the world's biggest gambling industry.

"This is a test case of a casino going under the radar that is doing extremely well," said Ben Lee, managing partner at Asian gaming consultancy IGamiX. "There is no other destination I know where the junket and casino organize 25 charter flights a week from China."

Crown's lack of renown can be put down to the Vietnamese government's reluctance to promote Danang as a destination for gambling, an activity which remains restricted to foreigners in this conservative, Communist country which maintains a rigid stance on social order.

Owned by Chinese businessman Hui Kong, Crown is one of seven licensed casinos in Vietnam, already a popular destination for many Chinese tourists.

Its main gaming area - plushly decked out in beige and gold - and 13 VIP rooms are about a quarter the size of an average Macau casino, but industry executives estimate monthly VIP turnover has increased over the past year to $3 billion a month, a figure at least double what larger rivals such as Solaire in the Philippines, NagaCorp in Cambodia and Genting Highlands in Malaysia rake in.

Crown executives declined to give any financial details.   Continued...

An exterior view shows the Crown International Games Club at Danang in central Vietnam November 28, 2015.  REUTERS/Farah Master