Vietnam's lottery war: American-style Mega game accused of breaking rules to beat rivals
Traditional lottery companies have filed a complaint to the government accusing the new computerized game operator Vietlott of illegally printing out numbers in advance and selling them at unregistered locations in a dishonest tactic to boost sales.
A council of 21 lottery companies in the south asked the Ministry of Finance to look into what it called "illegal operations" by Vietlott to guarantee healthy competition for the market. All lottery companies in Vietnam are run by the state.
Vietlott has more than 1,000 locations in Ho Chi Minh City, the neighboring Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Binh Duong and Dong Nai provinces, and An Giang and Can Tho in the Mekong Delta.
Customers are supposed to come to these places, pick their numbers and collect the ticket themselves.
But according to the council, Vietlott has been printing out numbers and having them sold by vendors to compete directly with traditional tickets.
Traditional lottery tickets in Vietnam have predetermined numbers printed on them, with the highest prize set at VND1.5 billion ($65,900).
In a move that shook up the whole market, Vietlott, or Vietnam Computerized Lottery One Member Limited Liability Company, in January signed an exclusive 18-year contract with Malaysian conglomerate Berjaya to launch computerized lottery games.
The Mega 6/45 is the company’s first foray into the market, debuting in July. In the American-style game, players select six numbers from 1 to 45 and win the jackpot, starting at VND12 billion ($538,000), by matching all six winning numbers from the draw. Each ticket costs VND10,000 (40 cents).
The jackpot prize will keep growing with time and with more players, until there is a winner. The odds of winning are extremely low, believed to be around one in 8.14 million.
After months without a winner, a family in Tra Vinh Province came forward to claim a jackpot VND92.03 billion ($4.04 million) last month. Vietlott has no registered agent in the province.
Then came two more winners within weeks, a lucky streak that has surprised many considering the very low chance of winning.
The southern lottery council said that when people buy preprinted series of numbers from Vietlott, it is not different from buying traditional tickets from the street.
Vietlott is also accused of overcharging. The printed series of numbers are delivered to customers for VND12,000, higher than the official price of VND10,000.
Vietnam bans gambling among its citizens but lottery tickets are popular nationwide.
The finance ministry has sent a statement asking Vietlott to review its operations. Tong Quoc Truong, general director of Vietlott, said his company is "working on it."
It is unclear whether the accusations against Vietlott are true.
For now, facing tough competition from Vietlott’s Mega game, the companies behind traditional tickets have already decided to raise the top prize by 33 percent to VND2 billion, starting next year.