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Australian firm bets on Bavet

An advertisement sits in front of casino in Bavet in 2010
An advertisement sits in front of casino in Bavet in 2010. An announcement on Monday suggested that one casino in Bavet has been bought by an Australian company. Sovan Philong

Australian firm bets on Bavet

Australian-listed Cell Aquaculture (CAQ) – a onetime a marine technology company – has purchased a casino on the Cambodia-Vietnam border in a bid to generate much-needed revenue after nearing bankruptcy in 2013.

On May 26, CAQ announced in a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange that it had hosted a soft opening for the Roxy Casino, which is located 200 metres from the border crossing in Bavet town, after a full renovation and refurbishment of the once-defunct operation.

Richard Soo, director of CAQ, said the renovation had cost the firm US$1.2 million thus far.

“We have had a team here since early January, building. Then, with furnishing and hiring of more personnel, we have incurred another US$250,000 cost. The costs are in line with our budgeted plans of US$1.5 million to US$2 million,” he added.

Soo, who also has interests in Malaysian playing-card maker Leisurematics, said he anticipates making up the initial investment in Roxy within the first six months of its operations, following a grand opening slated for August.

“As per the requirements of the ASX, CAQ will adhere to full disclosure of the casino’s financial operations,” he said.

According to the ASX filing, the new Roxy Casino will operate 24 hours a day, with 15 traditional gaming tables, eight online gaming tables, sports betting and 20 hotel rooms.

CAQ was placed into administration and suspended from trading on the ASX in November 2012 after posting a A$3.5 million (US$3.2 million) loss for the 2012 financial year. In an effort regain its position, CAQ in July last year issued an additional 250 million new shares, which in turn generated A$300 million for the company. CAQ was reinstated to the ASX on September 20, 2013.

“When the company’s owners realised current operations were no longer feasible or viable, they decided to look for a new direction for the firm. And with our China operations only 46 per cent complete so far, the company needed a more immediate source of income,” Soo said.

In March, CAQ agreed to purchase the Roxy Casino along with the rights to a free-trade zone in China for A$83 million, to be paid in the form of 553 million CAQ shares. The deal is expected to be finalised by July.

But the Australian company’s casino venture may not be the quick-fix it set out for.

Hor Chenda, deputy head of Bavet International Border Gate, said yesterday that the Roxy Casino had gone bankrupt prior to CAQ’s purchase of the property due to slumping gambler numbers crossing the Vietnam border.

“I have observed that the number of gamblers arriving here [Bavet] has declined, and as a result a few casinos have been faced with shutting down operations,” Chenda told the Post, adding that there are currently 10 casinos still operating in the border town.

“Most gamblers come from Vietnam. Historically, as a share of the number of Vietnamese crossing the border, around 40 per cent come for gambling. But that has declined noticeably recently.”

Along with the Roxy Casino project and as part of the March agreement, CAQ purchased the rights to Haikou Free Trade Zone on Hainan Island, in southern China.

CAQ stock spiked mid-March following the firm’s casino and Haikou Project announcement reaching $0.129 per share. At yesterday’s ASX close, CAQ’s share price was stable, trading at $0.115 cents per share.

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