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Owners of half-built casino ‘taste’ Ratanakkiri market

THE operators of a half-built US$3.5 million casino in Ratanakkiri province have opened in a temporary gambling centre in order to “taste the market” in northern Cambodia.

The operation  – billed as the province’s first – will run for three months along the border with Vietnam, beginning today.

Officials from Vietnam and Ratanakkiri’s provincial authorities have been invited to an opening ceremony, in which five gaming tables will be opened before the casino is completed.

“We will open for three months to taste the market,” said Bee Chivoan Dara, representative from casino owners Try Pheap Import Export Company.

“We’re focusing on attracting clients from Vietnam,” he said, adding the firm would also look to gamblers from other countries such as Malaysia and China in the future.

Three stories of the six-storey Try Pheap Mittapheap Casino Entertainment Resort had been completed on some 150 hectares of land in Ratanakkiri’s O’Yadao district, about one kilometre from the Vietnamese border, he said.

“We want to develop the area to become famous, like Bavet City,” he said, referring to the popular gambling destination in Southern Cambodia’s Svay Reing province, near the Vietnamese border.

“This is the first casino in Ratanakkiri province. We hope it will attract lots of people,” he added.

The project – owned by Cambodian tycoon Try Pheap – would also include residential housing, a business centre, warehouses, a market and a bus station. Bee Chivoan Dara declined to comment on the cost of the entire project, but said  the $3.5 million casino had received an official licence in 2005.

Officials from the Ministry of Economy and Finance – which is charged with managing the Kingdom’s casinos – declined to comment yesterday.

Meanwhile, Ratanakkiri provincial Adhoc coordinator Pen Bonnar said the provincial police had cracked down on a separate, unlicensed gambling site near the Try Pheap Mittapheap site on his petition.

The new Try Pheap Mittapheap had a licence to operate, he said, but added that opening the casino without completing the final building seemed unusual.

“I don’t understand why [they] are opening for a ‘tasting’ without a building,” he said.

“It will be hard to attract clients here, as the checkpoint [in Ratanakkiri province] with Vietnam is very quiet, not like Bavet City.”

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