KAMPOT province’s first casino has opened along the border with Vietnam, prompting a mix of celebration and concern among residents.
The nine-storey US$50 million Hatien Vegas Entertainment Resort is about a kilometre from Prek Chak international border in Russei Srok Khang Lek Commune, Kampong Trach district.
At the grand opening of the Cambodian-American joint venture, general manager Paul Simmonts said: “We were interested in the area because we believe that it will develop. We also believe that the casino industry in Cambodia is growing very strongly.”
The gambling centre will be marketed primarily to Vietnamese tourists, but Hatien Vegas plans to promote itself throughout the region in countries such as Singapore, Malaysia and Laos.
The four-star hotel and casino has 161 rooms, 80 gaming tables, five VIP gaming rooms, 150 gaming machines, 20 massage rooms, and several restaurants, bars and entertainment areas.
The company is also planning investment in a similar project in Takeo province, according to Simmonts.
Reaction within Kampot has been mixed. Although many welcomed the casino, others were concerned about its social impact.
Kang Sao Khorn, deputy governor of Kampot province, highlighted that the newly opened casino, capable of employing 1,000 workers, would provide much-needed jobs in the area.
She said: “A lot of people in this province leave home to work outside the country, so it can reduce that issue and also reduce poverty and human trafficking.”
The deputy governor said she hoped that the complex would also boost tourism. Another large casino development, owned by chairman of Sokimex Group Sok Kong, is being constructed on Bokor mountain, close to the provincial capital Kampot.
However, despite the buzz, some residents remain unconvinced. Lim Chheut, 36, of Kampot’s Kampong Trach district, said he would rather see investment in the province’s agricultural sector.
“I am very worried for those who are gaming in the casino – they may forget to do work or do something wrong for society if they lost all the money,” Lim Chheut said.
Leading government officials have also warned that the domestic sector is still under pressure following a slump in business during the economic crisis.
Ros Phearun, deputy director of the finance industry department at the Ministry of Economic and Finance, said on Thursday that some international investors have found it difficult to find local partners. Casinos in Poipet and Bavet have seen profits slump, and some have gone bankrupt.