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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Construction to start on $400m Siem Reap casino

Construction to start on $400m Siem Reap casino

SOUTH Korean developer Intercity Group plans to start construction in October on a US$400 million casino resort complex near Siem Reap that aims to draw high rollers from Macau and Singapore.

Harrah’s Entertainment Inc and MGM Resorts International, the largest casino owner on the Las Vegas strip, are among potential investors to visit the site, James Cho, Intercity’s vice president, said yesterday.

The first phase of the project is set to finish in 2012, he said.

“All these big guys are interested in operation management deals,” said Cho.

“We’re confident because the feasibility is there and gaming concessions in this region are so rare.”

Intercity is betting the casino complex, with an investment value equivalent to about 4 percent of Cambodia’s gross domestic product, will draw Asian gamblers looking for an alternative to more established gambling centers.

Singapore opened Resorts World Sentosa in February and Marina Bay Sands in April, and Vietnam has approved a $4.2 billion casino set to open in 2013.

Raising funds may prove difficult in the current financial climate given the project’s scale, said Sean Monaghan, an industry expert who formerly worked as a gaming analyst at Merrill Lynch and Co.

Success may hinge on showing investors ties to junket operators in Thailand and China, he said.

“Even though Siem Reap sounds good, most of the people that go there aren’t really casino players,” Singapore-based Monaghan said.

“You have to have a very, very solid team to pull that financing off.”

MGM representatives “accepted an invitation to meet and visit the site,” spokesman Gordon Absher said by email. He declined to comment further on the project.

Jacqueline Peterson, a spokeswoman for Las Vegas-based Harrah’s, didn’t immediately respond.

Intercity declined to reveal how much funding has been raised so far.

Cho said: “Cambodia is family friendly and it’s cheaper.”

Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan referred questions to the country’s investment board. Sok Chenda, secretary general of the Council for the Development of Cambodia, declined to comment.

Intercity said it received a licence to develop the Angkor casino in 2008, according to the website. But Lao Tip Seiha, Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction department director, said yesterday the Ministry had not received a licence application.

Siem Reap Provincial Hall deputy governor Bun Tharith, Apsara Authority deputy director general Soeun Kong and Council of Ministers’ Press and Quick Reaction spokesman Tith Sothea said they did not know about the scheme.

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