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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Huge casino to rival Angkor Wat

Huge casino to rival Angkor Wat

MALAYSIAN resort company Ariston is planning to build a $100 million hotel,

conference and casino complex near the river in Phnom Penh.

Ariston,

which runs the Naga Floating Casino, has bought 1.4 hectares of land between the

Buddhist Institute and the Bassac squatter area and plans to begin construction

next month. The company hopes that the resort will be finished in 14 to 16

months.

The massive complex, named Nexus Naga Hotel, will include 750

hotel rooms, conference facilities for 900 people, shops, restaurants, a

nightclub and a casino.

The resort has been designed by a US architect

group, Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo, which has previously designed renowned

venues such as Sun City in South Africa, the Venetian City in Las Vegas and

Ritz-Carlton hotels.

"Our intention is to build the biggest landmark in

Cambodia after Angkor Wat. As the temples become more and more famous, the

capital shouldn't be ignored," said Ariston chairman Tan Sri Chen Lip

Keong.

Nexus Naga Hotel will target both Western and East Asian tourists,

who Keong believes will increasingly be attracted to Cambodia.

"With the

only landmark in the capital, we can position ourselves as a winner. We will

have a considerable chance of success," Keong said.

Controversy has

surrounded casino operations in Phnom Penh, with Prime Minister Hun Sen issuing

an order last year that all gambling facilities must be moved at least 200

kilometers away from the capital. The casino at the Holiday Hotel chose to move

to Sihanoukville, but Ariston took the matter to court and won the right for the

Naga floating casino to stay.

In 1994 the Government signed an agreement

with Ariston permitting the company to run the only casino operation in

Cambodia. However, other gambling permits were later handed out, so Ariston

chose to settle for an agreement that makes them the only casino operator within

200 kilometers of Phnom Penh.

"We are decent people. We want to honor

that agreement, and we want the Government to honor it too," Keong

said.

According to plans, all casino operations on the Naga Floating

Casino will be moved into the new resort and the boat towed away.

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