Gaming insights Gaming

Viva Laos Vegas

Written by Andrew W Scott

This article first appeared in the Mar/Apr 2012 issue of World Gaming magazine.

Nongdeune Village,
Kaishonephomvihan District,
Savannakhet Province, Laos PDR
Phone +856 41 252 200
Exchange rates
HK$1 is approximately 4 Thai baht
US$1 is approximately 30 Thai baht
Minimum age to play in Laos: 18

For most players, the Savan Vegas casino in Savannakhet, Laos is not the first property that comes to mind when planning a gaming trip. Many players are unaware that Laos even has casinos, and in fact plenty would struggle to find Laos on a map! Andrew W Scott took a trip to Savannakhet and was surprised to discover Savan Vegas is a thriving property that has plenty to offer Asian players, including a 1.8 percent commission on baccarat rolling, just a 90 minute jet ride from Macau.

Laos is a landlocked country surrounded by Myanmar and China to the north, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south and Thailand to the west. About 750,000 of Laos’ 7 million citizens live in its capital and largest city, Vientiane, which is in the north of the country. About 500 kilometres south of Vientiane is Savannakhet, the country’s second largest city and home to around 125,000 people. Of all its neighbours, Laos is most similar to Thailand, with some close cultural connections and also similarities between the Lao and Thai languages. But don’t confuse the two, Laotians are fiercely proud of their nation and its independence.

The most striking geographic feature in the region is the mighty Mekong river. Almost 5,000 kilometres long and over one kilometre wide for much of its length, the Mekong starts in Tibet and continues south through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. It forms much of the border between Thailand and Laos, with Laos to the east and Thailand to the west. Savannakhet sits on the Lao side of the river, with the Thai city of Mukdahan on the opposite bank. The two cities are connected by the Second Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge, a modern 1.6 kilometre border crossing which opened in 2007.

Savan Vegas opened on 21 December 2008. Savan’s affiliate companies also run slot clubs in Vientiane, Lao Bao and the Savannakhet ferry terminal (and have more slot clubs planned), as well as the Hà Tiên Vegas entertainment resort on the Vietnam-Cambodia border.

Two things immediately stood out about Savan Vegas. Firstly, it is much larger than I expected. Secondly, it is very professionally operated. We’re not talking about some flaky fly-by-night border town operators here. Savan Vegas is fully licensed by the Lao government, which is a shareholder in the casino. It is very obvious the operators have made a serious commitment and are here to stay.

Savan Vegas has 12 international offices in the region. Most of them are in Thailand, as most of the players are Thai, but there are also offices in Vientiane, Macau, Vietnam, Phnom Penh and Kunming, with plans to open more. The casino employs around 1,900 staff, of which around 1,600 are local Laotians, with the rest mostly from other Asian countries.

The property is on a huge land area of 50 hectares, with the main building footprint around 7,000 square metres. The currency of Laos is the kip, but all gaming is conducted in Thai baht due to the predominance of Thai players.

While at Savan Vegas I chatted to Hoolae Paoa, now the General Manager of Savan Vegas’ sister property at Hà Tiên. Before taking up the position at Hà Tiên, Hoolae was General Manager of Savan Vegas, so he knows the property well.

“Our Savan Vegas Resort and Casino attracts prospective customers by offering an exciting and unique experience,” Hoolae told me. “Our high quality, friendly, and professional service along with an entertaining, fun-filled environment differentiates Savan Vegas Resort and Casino from its competitors. Our facilities and ambiance make us the best boutique casino in all of Asia. Come to where the fun never sets!”

Getting there

Most of the players at Savan Vegas are from Thailand. Many are from the northeastern Isan region, but some come from as far away as Bangkok. The property has a well-established bus and van program, but players also make their way in private vehicles. Whether bus, van or private vehicle, all players are welcome at the Savan Vegas Welcome Center in Mukdahan on the Thai side of the border. The friendly staff at the Welcome Center will help you across the border and on to the casino without any immigration or visa hassles.

Most WGM readers will fly to Savannakhet, as I did, on the government-owned Lao Airlines. I’m happy to report Lao Airlines has been accident free for 12 years – more than can be said for many much larger airlines! They operate a flight from Bangkok to Savannakhet every day at 13:10, and when you’re ready to head home there’s a flight back to Bangkok every day at 10:40. The journey takes a little over an hour and the plane is a comfortable 72 seater. The days I flew were very clear, providing a magnificent view of the Thai countryside.

Savan Vegas is currently working with Lao Airlines to create their very own cobranded flights, which will allow different points of origin such as Macau, Hong Kong or Kunming.

The royal treatment begins the moment you land at Savannakhet airport. Assuming you’ve booked ahead and told them you’re coming, Savan Vegas will put you on their fast track program. They handle all the visa and immigration formalities. When I landed, I was whisked off the tarmac like some kind of superstar, and within three minutes of landing I was sitting in Savan’s super-stretch limo! The guys at Savan tell me this is the only limousine in all of Laos! The only thing missing was a paparazzi scrum!

The casino is just a short 10 minute drive from the airport. The whole experience really does feel like something out of a movie. You pass through the gates of the property, up a very long straight driveway and the limo turns and gracefully glides to the main entrance, with a line-up of Savan Vegas staff awaiting your arrival. You’ll notice the enormous elephants built into the façade of the main Savan Vegas building, some of them over six metres tall! The elephant is a national symbol of Laos and according to Buddhist and Hindu beliefs it embodies greatness and wisdom.

Savan Vegas Hotel

The hotel has over 500 rooms, with more constantly being built. There is a wide range of styles starting at the Presidential suite and moving down through executive suites, apartments, junior suites, deluxe rooms and standard rooms. The standard room rack rate is 2,800 baht, but once you’re established as a player they’ll immediately drop that down to the special players rate of a mere 1,000 baht a night.

The hotel is well equipped, with a 24 hour business center, round-the-clock room service, and a large outdoor pool. There’s even a “kid zone” which provides free childcare for players’ children, whether the players are staying in house or not.

Later this year Savan plans to break ground on a new five-star international quality 500 room tower of 11 storeys. This new hotel will boast an Asian spa, and at least three new restaurants with a variety of cuisines.

VIP gaming and rolling programs

There are about eight different junket operators at Savan Vegas. Most of the junket players are Thai, Vietnamese or Chinese. Savan Vegas has four VIP rooms housing 21 tables and accepts a maximum differential of 500,000 baht.

However, there are huge expansion plans afoot. Savan Vegas intends to open eight more rooms, with 40 more tables, and increase the maximum differential to 1.5 million baht. These new rooms should be open sometime later this year.

The first thing I should say about playing at Savan Vegas as a high roller is you get way more “bang for your buck” than you do in Macau. This is only natural, given the nature of the two cities. Bring a buy-in of a few hundred thousand Hong Kong dollars to a Macau casino and you’ll hardly raise an eyebrow, but at Savan you may well be king of the property! Your hosts will give you a VIP tour of Savannakhet in the super-stretch limo, and probably follow it up with a round of golf and a night out on the town!

For Chinese players, there is no need to worry about any language barrier. The property has plenty of Chinese speaking staff, such as Monmon who speaks Mandarin and English and has worked at Savan Vegas since it opened.

To contact Savan Vegas, you can speak to either Frank Hamada (frank.hamada@, Lao cell +856 20 2221 7701) for any non-gaming matters, or Simon Tey ([email protected], Lao cell +856 20 2230 1048) who is Casino Operations Manager, for gaming matters. Frank speaks English and Mandarin, and Simon speaks English, Malay, Thai, Lao and five Chinese dialects including Mandarin and Cantonese.

Savan Vegas has some great player programs:

  • Junket players program
    • no minimum front money requirement
    • 1.8% commission on rolling
    • full RFB (room, food and beverage) complimentary
  • Premium direct program for walk-in players
    • 50,000 baht (approximately HK$12,500) front money requirement
    • 1.7% commission on rolling
    • front money must be rolled a minimum of two times
    • full RFB (room, food and beverage) complimentary
  • Bangkok fly-in program
    • 100,000 baht (approximately HK$25,000) front money requirement
    • first roll of front money 0% commission but pays for airfare from Bangkok
    • subsequent rolls 1.6% commission on rolling
    • front money must be rolled a minimum of five times
    • full RFB (room, food and beverage) complimentary

Savan Vegas has even flown players to Savannakhet by private charter jet from other cities around Asia like Macau, Hong Kong and Kunming. Of course this kind of red carpet treatment requires a higher playing commitment, so speak to Savan Vegas directly if you are interested. Personally I think a good option is to start your holiday with some party time in Bangkok, and let Savan Vegas fly you to Savannakhet from Bangkok on their regular plane program.

Main floor gaming

For those who are not high rollers, there’s still plenty of main floor action. At around 40,000 square feet the main floor is much bigger than I expected! Here’s what I found on the floor:

Dragon v Tiger
Roulette (single zero)
Stud poker
Sic bo
Super sic bo***
* On numbers bets. For even money and 2 to 1 bets, minimum is 100 baht and maximum is 50,000 baht.
** For the initial ante bet.
*** Fast game with only three bets available: Big, Small and Any Triple.


I’m sure you’re familiar with all the games listed above, except one: Dragon v Tiger. This is a special game developed at Savan Vegas. It’s a very easy game to play, and is like a cross between casino war and baccarat. Just like baccarat there are two sides, but instead of them being called “banker” and “player”, they are called “dragon” and “tiger”. And just like casino war, each side gets one card with the side having the highest card winning. Winning bets are paid at even money. If the ranks of the two cards are the same, suits decide the winning side. The casino’s only shop is when the two cards are exactly the same rank and suit – which is rare. In that case both sides lose but it’s an opportunity to win the “tie” side bet, which pays a hefty 50 to 1.

The Savan Vegas stud poker jackpot starts at 1 million baht and at the time of going to press was sitting at around 1.6 million baht.

Players on Savan’s bus and van program are provided a free room and two buffet vouchers per day. Playing requirements vary depending on the distance travelled, but are very reasonable. For self-drive customers, Savan Vegas will even comp your fuel!

Savan also has a local player program that allows locals to receive rewards throughout the property such as hotel rooms, meals, spa treatments and gift shop purchases. There are even random prize giveaways (such as computers) from time to time.

Electronic gaming

Those of you that love the hungry tigers will not be disappointed. Mr Lourens Verheem heads up electronic gaming at Savan. WGM has known Lourens for many years and he really knows what he is doing. He has introduced modern, innovative electronic gaming to the property, with 549 slot machines and terminals currently in place, and more on the way.

The main floor has plenty of multi-player electronic terminals, in keeping with the craze that is sweeping the gaming industry across the world. Avid WGM readers will remember the article in our Jul/Aug 2011 issue about the Sabre roulette product from Inspired Gaming (check out to catch up on that article). Savan Vegas was the very first casino in Asia to adopt the product, and currently has 40 terminals of Sabre on the property. The Inspired Gaming terminals offer bets from 10 baht to 15,000 baht.

Another great innovation at Savan are the Alfastreet multi-station roulettes. These stations provide a very relaxing way to play. You’ll feel more like you’re in a lounge chair at home than in a casino when playing these machines!

As if all that wasn’t enough, our good friends at Shufflemaster have also provided Savan Vegas with over 60 terminals of multistation roulette and baccarat.

Of course slot players love jackpots. At Savan there are a number of familiar progressive jackpots, for example Jackpot Carnival, Cash Express, Racing Girls and of course everyone’s favorite Fa Fa Fa. Jackpots over 1 million baht are not uncommon.

Tournaments and promotions

Like any modern well-run casino, Savan Vegas has its fair share of tourneys and promos. There’s a daily “dragon v tiger” tournament that is a lot of fun, especially since it is completely free to enter. Eight people play in the single-table tournament. All members are eligible, and it’s simply a case of first in best dressed, so you need to register early. Once the cap of eight players is reached, the tourney is locked out and the fun begins at 3pm that day. It’s a winner-take-all affair with the victor pocketing a tidy 20,000 baht in free money. No player can play more than once a week, so if you take a trip to Savan make sure you play at least once for a bit of fun.

From time to time Savan Vegas runs slot tourneys and also has promos with prizes such as motorbikes, laptops and of course cash. Cash prizes average around 50,000 baht.

Sports book

The V-Win sports book is right on the main floor near the entrance to the Lanexang Garden buffet, so you’ll be able to get all your sports bets on during your trip. Like most Asian sports books, V-Win focuses on football, but of course bets on other sports are available.


There is a BCEL bank on the main floor (see with a money exchange facility and also an ATM, and there is another bank coming soon.

Restaurants and bars

There are three dining options at Savan Vegas. For a quick snack or a tea or coffee, there’s the Xokmixay café near the main floor stage. For a more substantial meal, head to the Lanexang Garden buffet which offers breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper buffets every day. Lanexang also has an à la carte menu in its SilQ room.

The Dynasty Chinese restaurant has excellent fare and an experienced Chinese chef. You can find all your favourite dishes here, such as dim sum, suckling pig, soft shell crab, roast duck and many more. Prices range from a very reasonable 300 baht for some main course plates right up to 8,900 baht for an 11-course set menu banquet!

If you need a quick feed while playing, you can get a bowl of noodles on the main floor for just 50 baht. There’s no need to stop playing just because you got hungry!

For a drink, look no further than the Elephant Bar in the very middle of the main floor, or the Little Elephant Bar near the entrance to the Dynasty restaurant.

Sene Sabai Spa and Savan Vegas Salon

We all know that a gaming trip to a place like Savan Vegas is first and foremost about doing battle at the tables. But once you get away from the felt, it’s the perfect opportunity to enjoy some serious relaxation. The Sene Sabai Spa offers massage, body treatments and facials at ridiculously low prices. You might find yourself in the spa all day! A quick 30 minute back and shoulder massage will set you back a mere 250 baht. At the other extreme, you can go for the 150 minute “head to toe” package which is 1,500 baht. Of course if your play warrants it, all your spa treatments will be comped anyway!

The ladies may find themselves at the Savan Vegas salon, which provides haircuts and shampoos, coloring and straightening as well as a fully-equipped nail salon.


The main floor has a large stage featuring various Thai and local bands. From time to time headliners from Bangkok such as Janet Keaw perform.

There’s also the Savan Vegas Karaoke, which is accessed directly off the main floor. My hosts assured me it is the best karaoke bar in Laos!


There are two shops near the hotel reception: SV Gifts and Duty Free, and Savan Vegas Jewels.


The property has a convention center with a capacity of 1,000 people. If you’re looking for an interesting and different place for your next MICE event, you could do a lot worse than Savan Vegas.


The Dao-Heuang Golf Club is just a few minutes drive from the property. It’s a magnificently kept 9 hole par 30 course, complete with bunkers and water hazards. Mr Eddy runs the course, and can be contacted on +856 41 252 444 or [email protected].

There are also plans to build a golf course on the Savan Vegas grounds in the next 12 to 15 months.

Meet the team
Savan Vegas’ senior management team are at your service:
Clay Hardin General Manager
Eric Coskun Casino Table Games Manager
Lourens Verheems Regional Electronic Gaming Manager
Zane Kubala Operations Manager
Mark Crickett Security Manager
Simon Tey Casino Operations Manager