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Casino show gets mixed response

Casino show gets mixed response

New gaming and casino technology went on display for the first time in Phnom Penh last week

A CASINO gaming exhibition held in Phnom Penh last week produced mixed reactions from the government and opposition over the future of gaming in the Kingdom.

The event, hosted by Macau-based Well Entertainment Ltd to showcase new gaming and casino technology, was the first of its kind in Cambodia.

"We can see a potential market in Cambodia because the gaming industry here is improving," Antonio Fong, managing director for Well Entertainment, told the Post Thursday.

"We are targeting the Southeast Asian sector, and in particular the Indochina region. Cambodia stands at the centre of markets in Singapore, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand," Fong said.

The company aims to bring its products, which are designed in the United States and manufactured in China, to Cambodia to meet the growing demands of the gaming industry in the Kingdom, Fong said.

Phu Kok An, a Cambodian People's Party senator with substantial holdings in the Kingdom's burgeoning gaming industry, said the local sale of Well Entertainment's products would generate much needed tax revenue for the government

"Generally, we need governmental approval for the import of casino equipment, and we usually buy from the United State or Australia, accounting for hundreds of thousands of dollars," he said.

"I think the casino industry [in Cambodia] shows every sign of strengthening in the future," Phu Kok An said, adding that he expects to earn nearly US$1 million from his interests in the gaming sector in 2008.

"I expect to get even more profits in the future," he said. "[Many] people are crossing the Thai border into Cambodia to visit casinos, even though tensions have been high on the border."

Chhea Peng Chheang, secretary of state at the Ministry of Economy and Finance, said he was not aware of the exhibition but acknowledged that the gaming industry in Cambodia has boosted national revenues.

"The government expects to earn $18 million in national income in 2008. This is up from $16 million in 2007," Chea Peng Chheang told the Post last week.

"Cambodia currently has about 29 casinos, mostly along our borders with Thailand and Vietnam, which employ more than 15,000 people," said Chea Peng Chheang. "We expect more casinos in the future, particularly near the Vietnamese border."

Opposition parliamentarians criticized the industry's growth, saying the social costs outweigh the economic benefits. "I want Cambodia to be famous for its rich culture and traditions," Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Yim Sovann told the Post Thursday. "I would feel sorry if we were to become well-known only for our casinos."

Cambodia's gaming industry has seen strong growth with Naga Corp, the country's largest gaming company, reporting 68.5 percent revenue growth for the first half of 2008.

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