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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Casino plans multiply, as do the questions

Casino plans multiply, as do the questions

CASINO Austria is on the verge of being awarded the management contract for

Ariston's Heritage floating casino, now moored on the Tonle Sap river, industry

sources have said.

It is also understood that a second floating casino,

again apparently owned by Malaysia's Ariston company and managed by Casino

Austria, will be soon in operation in Sihanoukville.

Two other companies

holding gaming licenses - awarded before the present government were elected -

are angling for permission to open a land-based gaming club in

Sihanoukville.

Sources say that up to five new Cambodian casinos are

being planned, including at least two more in Phnom Penh, possibly Siem Reap,

and the Sihanoukville scheme.

Official confirmation could not be

obtained by the Post.

Some commentators are skeptical whether Ariston can

develop the Naga Island resort as promised - one called the entire $1.3 billion

deal "a house of cards". Others say there is enough "serious" money in Asia to

support five casinos in Cambodia.

Casino Austria manages casinos in

Canberra, Cairns and Christmas Island, as well as in Europe, including Austria

where it has a state monopoly.

Sources said that Casino Austria was

already recruiting Australian staff for their Cambodian deals.

Casino

Austria does not normally invest in ownership of casinos but instead are solely

management contractors.

This has been taken by many as proof of Ariston's

committment to establish a big gambling interest in Cambodia.

However,

they said that Ariston - though moving quickly to tap into the Asian gaming

industry with one, now possibly two gambling ships - are doing it on the

cheap.

"They are preaching the billion-dollar story, but in reality even

two casino ships, newly outfitted, can be done on a million dollar budget," one

said.

"There is going to be another floating casino in Sihanoukville.

There are charter ships everywhere, and it is the cheapest way of getting in

quick, cheap and first... it is also easy to pack up and leave quickly," he

said.

Meanwhile, the refitting of the Heritage is understood to be almost

completed, and many of Phnom Penh's movers and shakers are awaiting invitations

to the opening bash.

But here too, questions have been raised by those in

the industry.

The Post understands that the surveillance equipment

brought onto the Heritage consists of 12 six by six monitors and cameras that

are normally used for hotel surveillance, for example. One industry source

likened the system - as compared to systems used in Nevada, for example - as

"the difference between taking your BMW to a specialized mechanic and a

motorbike shop."

He said it was an illustration that work to get the

gambling income was being done too fast, and too cheaply.

Casino Austria

has had experience on floating casinos in Asia - a limited time on the Cora

Princess in Hong Kong some years ago - but its Asian experience now is limited

to the Christmas Island casino, under Indonesian backing.

The scope for

Cambodian gambling is huge, according to commentators.

There would be no

problem setting up five casinos in Cambodia, according to one source, who says

that there were hundreds of millions of "gaming" dollars available to be had in

the region.

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