The Grand Ho Tram Strip casino in Vietnam plans to offer VIP telephone betting on gaming tables streamed live over the internet. Stephen Shoemaker, CEO of The Grand’s parent company Asian Coast Development (Canada) Ltd. (ACDL), says the new ‘proxy’ betting scheme could launch as early as December.
The Grand has 90 gaming tables, of which 55 are VIP. An unspecified number of these tables will have cameras installed above them that will stream the action online. A baccarat whale whom for whatever reason can’t make it to the casino will call a proxy sitting at the table and issue betting instructions. Shoemaker told GGRAsia that all the necessary hardware was in place, leaving only software tweaks before play could commence.
Proxy betting is common in Macau, although Sands China reportedly told its junkets no more proxy wagers in October and Macau doesn’t allow live streaming of table action. But live streaming is already happening at other properties in Vietnam and Shoemaker says the casino’s lawyers aren’t sweating it since no bets placed online will be allowed.
The addition of proxy betting could pour some gas on The Grand’s fire. In Macau, a private proxy table requires a gambler to wager nearly $400k per session. Plus The Grand is a two-hour drive from Ho Chi Minh City’s main airport, making an evening on the sofa with a phone and a laptop look pretty attractive.
BUDDY, CAN YOU SPARE A BILLION?
The Grand stumbled out of the gate last year as Vietnam’s foreigner-only rules kept a lid on revenue. But 14 months in, Shoemaker says the country’s first true integrated resort is gathering steam. By mid-October, the property had already passed its previous monthly high for VIP turnover.
Regardless, The Grand continues to look high and low for ways to goose revenue. Vietnam places a $4b threshold for casino developers to clear and ACDL has a lot more building to do before it can relax. Work on The Grand’s second hotel tower has been stalled as ACDL still hopes to bag an international hotel chain and any other deep-pocketed investors. In September, ACDL got a $50m boost from its majority owner, Phil Falcone’s Harbinger Capital Partners, and $20m more from NewCity Capital in July.
NewCity Capital’s Chien Lee has significant experience with Macau junket operators. While no longer involved with the company, Lee founded VIP gaming promoter Iao Kun Group (formerly Asia Entertainment Resources Ltd.). In August, Lee told Forbes’ Muhammad Cohen he would “use my network” to build a bridge between junkets and The Grand.
Suggestions have been made that Macau’s sustained VIP gambling decline could create opportunities for other Asian gaming jurisdictions, including Vietnam, to siphon off 5% of Macau’s VIP turnover by next year. ACDL wouldn’t mind a piece.