EUROPEAN casino operator Queenco Leisure International Ltd will make its first foray into the Asian gaming market by taking control of Holiday Palace Hotel in Sihanoukville next April.
Listed in London, Queenco has signed a memorandum of understanding to form a joint venture with Holiday Palace owner Paradise Investment Co to “develop, operate and finance” the hotel.
Queenco vice president for development Mark Vlassopulos said yesterday: “The intention of the company is to take over the existing hotel in April, renovate it and increase it in size – more or less double it – to a four to five-star international standard … including a casino."
The Israel-based company, which holds a 70 percent stake in the venture, has had its sights on a Cambodian operation for some time.
It bought a separate 9-hectare block of undeveloped beachfront in Sihanoukville in 2008 for US$10 million.
“We are definitely planning to develop it,” Vlassopulos said.
He said that he expected Southeast Asia to dominate the company’s focus for the next 10 years.
“The idea is to stimulate Sihanoukville’s growth with this first project, and in the meantime we will start to develop the raw land a year later, so towards the end of next year.”
Vlassopulos, who lived in Singapore for 10 years but is based in Switzerland, said that the company was attracted to Sihanoukville over other destinations for a number of reasons.
“We liked Cambodia since we first [arrived]. It is very business friendly, there is less competition and we can grow very quickly as Cambodia grows,” he said.
“Based on the regulatory framework for gaming, we think there is vast upside in the area, and Sihanoukville should be a major tourist destination in the years to come.”
Queenco owns four casinos across Greece, Romania and Serbia and is applying for a gaming licence for its nightclub in the Czech Republic, according to its 2010 interim report released last month.
Under Cambodia's gambling laws, NagaWorld has exclusive rights to run a casino within a 200-kilometre radius of Phnom Penh.
However, other operators are opening casinos on Cambodia's coastal and border areas.
Kampot province's first casino is set to open later this month about 300 metres from the Prek Chak border crossing to Vietnam.