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Gambling hides behind arcade games in Ho Chi Minh City

Sunday, September 24, 2017, 16:26 GMT+7

Many gambling rings in Ho Chi Minh City have been operating under the name of amusement arcades or game centers, making it difficult for competent agencies to crack down on them.

The municipal People’s Committee has ordered assertive measures to be taken against this form of gambling.

Meanwhile, leaders of local police units consider it hard to permanently solve the problem.

Points to money

Undercover Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reporters on August 18 arrived at a game center on Tan Ky Tan Quy Street, situated near the police station in Binh Hung Ward, Binh Tan District, where there were five gaming machines, four of which were designed for fish shooting games.

A man named Dung sold his points to other players at VND100,000 (US$4) per 1,000 points.

In this type of game, players obtain a number of points after putting arcade coins into the machine.

Their points will get deducted by some after each shot and the players can earn considerable points after catching a fish.

At most gaming facilities, bigger numbers of scores can also be transferred in and out of the machine through a special kind of electronic card.

Located about 10 houses away was a similar venue, where over 20 gamblers gathered during the afternoon.

A female employee offered points to players at VND20,000 ($9) per 1,000 points.

Similar entertainment is also provided at an arcade located inside a shopping mall in District 5.

Due to stricter regulations, customers are required to purchase coins at VND3,500 (15 cents) each to play the games.

Each coin is equal to 10 points, while 10 complimentary coins are given to players if they buy 30 coins at a time.

On the evening of September 19, Thanh, a fourth-year university student, spent VND105,000 ($5) on 40 coins to play fish shooting.

A fish shooting game machine at an arcade in Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre
A fish shooting game machine at an arcade in Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre

As the first round cost her all the points, she bought 40 more coins and were able to gather enough scores to earn herself over 100 coins in return.

The young girl then traded the coins for VND510,000 ($22) in cash.

On the following day, Thanh purchased 120 coins, which cost VND315,000 ($14) but could only get back VND230,000 ($10) with her remaining points.

At most arcades within local shopping malls, customers can buy coins with money but are not allowed to return them.

Some groups of people have been secretly buying and selling arcade coins or points using cash, which is considered against the rules.

They usually offer rates lower than the original price set up by the centers.

Hard to deal with

According to an official from the municipal Department of Police, officers have been exerting full effort to crack down on such gambling dens.

“However, we have just dealt with the tip of the iceberg. Proving they are gambling is quite a challenge,” he added.

Managers of these arcades organize their operations in a very sophisticated manner, the police official said.

They tend to have a foreign parent company distribute machines, equipment, and other related software.

“Once their venue is fined or shut down, they will find another location to re-establish the operation,” a district-level police officer stated.

Colonel Nguyen Sy Quang, chief of staff of the city’s police department, told Tuoi Tre that police units across the metropolis have been ordered to investigate and penalize gambling activities at local arcades and gaming facilities.

Officers are also encouraged to speak up about the difficulty regarding legal procedures they face during the crackdowns so that authorities can come up with a suitable solution, Col. Quang stated.

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